MSHA Issues $1.85 Million in Crandall Canyon Mine Fines

MSHA has fined Genwal Resources Inc., a Price, Utah-based operator of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Emery County, Utah, $1,636,664 and issued 11 citations in connection with the roof collapse that killed six miners on Aug. 6, 2007. Two additional miners and an MSHA inspector were killed 10 days later in another "coal outburst" during rescue operations. Grand Junction, Colo.-based Agapito Associates Inc., a mining engineering company, was fined $220,000 for what MSHA's report claims was faulty analysis of the mine's design. Genwal's parent company is Murray Energy Co.

"MSHA's investigation found that Genwal Resources recklessly failed to immediately report three previous coal outbursts that had occurred, two in March 2007 and one just three days before the August 6th accident," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. "These reporting failures were critical because they deprived MSHA of the information it needed to properly assess the operator's mining plans. MSHA also found that the operator was taking more coal than allowed from the barrier pillars and the floor. This dangerously weakened the strength of the roof support."

The agency's voluminous report (www.msha.gov/Fatals/2007/CrandallCanyon/CrandallCanyonreport.asp) said Genwal did not immediately contact MSHA after coal outbursts threw coal into the mine openings and disrupted regular mining activities for more than one hour on three occasions prior to Aug. 6; failed to propose revisions to the roof control plan when coal outbursts clearly indicated the plan was inadequate and miners were being exposed to dangerous conditions; and violated the approved roof control plan by removing coal that was required to support the roof. Agapito was cited for failing to recommend safe mining methods and pillar/barrier dimensions.

Asked to comment, a spokeswoman at Agapito's offices who would not give her name said this morning, "They're reviewing [the report] and seeking advice from counsel, and I really don't know when there will be a comment."

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement that the report confirms conclusions reached by his committee's investigation. "Murray Energy should not have proposed the flawed retreat mining plan and MSHA should not have approved the plan. It is clear that Murray Energy is an outlaw company that recklessly endangered its employees' lives. It is tragic that the deaths of six miners and three rescuers resulted from the reckless actions of a few individuals and inadequate MSHA oversight," Miller stated. "Especially troubling is MSHA's conclusion that Murray Energy misled MSHA regarding bumps that occurred in March 2007. In April of this year, I asked the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into this very subject. The April referral was supported by significant evidence committee staff uncovered as they reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents, interviewed many witnesses, and deposed several individuals involved. I am confident that MSHA's additional evidence in support of our criminal referral will provide further assistance to the Department of Justice in aggressively pursuing this criminal matter."

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