Virginia Operator Receives First MSHA Pattern of Violation Notice

MSHA issued its first-ever pattern of violations notice to a mine operator. Patriot Mining LLC of Wise County, Va., under a procedure authorized by law in 1978 but not systematically used until the agency notified operators on June 16, 2008, that they were potential targets of such notices. To avoid the designation, an operation could review and comment on the documents on which the potential pattern of violations was based and implement a written corrective action plan to reduce violations that "could reasonably be expected to lead to a serious injury or illness." Those violations are the category that trigger the designation.

Forty-three operators have been notified thus far, and all except Patriot have made "significant" improvements, according to MSHA.

"This operator had a pattern of exposing miners to potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses in violation of the law and was given every opportunity to turn around its safety record but failed to do so," said Richard Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Hopefully, this stronger enforcement action will induce the operator to implement the necessary improvements at its operation to prevent potentially serious or fatal harm to miners."

During its next inspection of the Patriot mine, MSHA will have to issue an order withdrawing miners from the affected area for each of the violations found. The withdrawal order can be lifted only after the condition has been corrected; Patriot will be off the list when an inspection of the entire mine is completed and no such violations are found or no withdrawal order is issued by MSHA.

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