MSHA Fines Murray-Controlled Mine $420,300 for Flagrant Violations

MSHA announced today it has assessed $420,300 in fines against Andalex Resources Inc. for violations relating to potential fire and explosion hazards at the Aberdeen Mine in Price, Utah, based on two flagrant violations the agency issued Oct. 26, 2006, and June 20, 2007 under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act. Andalex is controlled by Robert E. Murray, who heads Murray Energy -- the owner of the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Utah, where an August 2007 disaster resulted in nine deaths and greater congressional scrutiny of MSHA.

"Mine operators that repeatedly violate mine safety standards must be held accountable for their actions," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in today's agency news release, which said Andalex allowed excessive accumulations of hydraulic oil and fine coal particles covered the hoses, electric conduit, and tram motors on electric equipment. Andalex also allowed "excessive accumulations of potentially explosive float coal dust and other combustible material to accumulate on a dangerously maintained conveyor belt. Such accumulations provide substantial fuel to propagate a mine fire," it said.

The MINER law defines a flagrant violation as "a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury." Civil penalties up to $220,000 may be assessed for each flagrant violation, and MSHA assessed these two at $220,000 and $200,300.

Mike Grinnell of The Salt Lake Tribune reported today that the flagrant violation citations were issued during two regular quarterly inspections after Murray Energy moved into Utah in early August 2006 with the purchase of the Tower, Crandall Canyon, South Crandall Canyon, and West Ridge mines from Andalex Resources.

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