Two Coal Mines Receive POV Notices

They are the first to receive full enforcement action until this section of the Mine Act, according to MSHA, which said its reinspections of 10 mines earlier this year found only these two had increased S&S violation rates.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced April 12 that it has issued notices of a pattern of violations to two coal mining operations under Section 104(e) of the federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Bledsoe Coal Corp.'s Abner Branch Rider Mine in Leslie County, Ky., and The New West Virginia Mining Co.'s Apache Mine in McDowell County, W.Va., are the first mines in the act's history to be subject to the full effect of this enforcement action, which targets mines with chronic and persistent health and safety violations.

They were among 14 mines notified by MSHA last November and December that they had a potential pattern of violations. All of the mines took corrective actions to reduce their significant and substantial (S&S) issuance rates, and MSHA inspected 10 of them again during the first quarter of 2011. (Two mines were temporarily idled, one had ceased production, and one had not completed the evaluation process.)

A chart posted by MSHA shows that the S&S rates for these two mines rose 5 percent (Abner Branch Rider) and 6 percent (Apache) when MSHA reinspected them during the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, the other eight mines' rates were declining by at least 39 percent and by as much as 87 percent, in the case of the Hollister Mine. "We take this law and our obligation to enforce it very seriously," said Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "While we believe most mine operators in this country do as well, it is clear that some do not. If we are to prevent death, injury, and illness in the nation's mines, these enforcement actions are necessary to rein in chronic and persistent violators of safety and health laws."

The Upper Big Branch Mine also received a potential POV notification, but further action are in abeyance until MSHA finishes its investigation of the April 2010 explosion there.

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