$280,000 Fine Lodged Against Alabama Mining Company

Shelby Mining Co. LLC of Helena, Ala., has been fined $280,000 by MSHA in connection with an October 2008 incident in which two miners were seriously burned. Working in Coke Mine #1, one miner was operating a continuous mining machine and the other acting as a helper. Worn cutter bits came in contact with the rock roof, and friction ignited the air-methane mixture, according to MSHA.

The agency said 10 bits were worn off on the side of the cutting head where the ignition occurred, and 22 cutting bits in all were worn or missing. "The stated obligation of every mine operator is to seek out and eliminate safety and health hazards that may adversely affect its employees," said Michael A. Davis, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary for operations. "In this instance, the foreman failed to do that, and a serious yet avoidable accident occurred."

MSHA said Shelby's management did not take air readings or ensure water sprays and the methane monitor were maintained so they would function properly. Because this mine "has a history of methane ignitions at the face, with eight being reported since October 2006," MSHA cited the operator for three unwarrantable failure violations determined to be reckless disregard and one high negligence unwarrantable failure violation.

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