Crandall Canyon Mine Operators Could Face Criminal Charges

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) earlier this week acknowledged that it has made a criminal referral of issues relating to the Crandall Canyon Mine to the United States attorney for the District of Utah in a motion filed with the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

The criminal referral arises out of the same facts, events, and conditions that led to MSHA's issuance of civil citations and orders on July 24, 2008. At that time, MSHA fined the operator of the Crandall Canyon Mine $1,340,000 for alleged violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year. Agapito Associates Inc., a mining engineering consultant, was fined $220,000 for an allegedly faulty analysis of the mine's design.

"Through its investigation of the tragic accidents last year at Crandall Canyon, MSHA determined that the operator and its engineering consultants demonstrated reckless disregard for safety," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. "MSHA has referred this case for possible criminal charges."

The United States attorney for the District of Utah requested that the secretary of labor seek a stay of all civil proceedings, including all discovery in all civil proceedings, in response to this criminal referral. The requested stay is necessary to avoid potential interference with the criminal enforcement process, which could arise from a contemporaneous related civil enforcement proceeding.

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