Court Rules Mine Safety and Health Act “Flagrantly” Violated by Minnesota Iron Ore Mine

Court Rules Mine Safety and Health Act “Flagrantly” Violated by Minnesota Iron Ore Mine

The ruling follows an incident in 2016 when a walkway collapsed with a worker on it.

An iron ore mine operator in Minnesota has “flagrantly” violated a federal act, an appeals court ruled.

According to a news release, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the Northshore Mining Co. operator “flagrantly violated” the Mine Safety and Health Act. The ruling was issued following an event from years prior.

In 2015, an elevated walkway at Northshore Mining Co. in Lake County, Minnesota, was designated “structurally inadequate and unsafe for use” but for the next months, miners were told to work on it, the news release said. The issues were not easily visible to the miners as the surface was covered in mud and debris. In 2016, the walkway collapsed with a miner on it, injuring the worker.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident and named it a flagrant violation, according to the news release, which is defined under the MINER act as “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory health or safety standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury.”

This was the first time the definition of “reckless flagrant violation” was “considered” in court, the news release said. The court ruled in August 2022 that the mine’s “failure to maintain the walkway met that definition,” per the news release.

“Protecting the safety and health of our nation’s miners is our highest priority,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson in the news release.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will hold mine operators and individuals accountable when they break the law and jeopardize workers’ safety and health. Congress gave Mine Safety and Health Administration the authority to designate serious violations that operators know about but do not try to correct as flagrant, and we will not hesitate to use this authority to ensure that the laws that protect miners are adequately enforced,” Williamson said.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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