Feds sue 2 Ky. mines over warnings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The Department of Labor is asking a judge
to bar two eastern Kentucky mines from warning underground miners
when federal officials arrive for inspections.
Federal inspectors said in court documents that workers at the
mines in Bell and Harlan counties could be heard over the radio
system alerting miners of the inspectors' arrival during a recent
visit.
The complaint, filed in London, Ky., on Tuesday, said the
Federal Mine Safety and Health Act prohibits "permitting notice of
an inspection to be communicated from the surface operations of the
mines to persons working underground."
Federal inspectors visited the Manalapan Mining Co.'s RB No. 12
mine in Harlan County and Left Fork Mining Co.'s Straight Creek No.
1 mine in Bell County on April 19. Left Fork Mining is a subsidiary
of Manalapan.
A message left at Manalapan's offices was not returned
Wednesday.
Court documents also said the day after the mine inspections, an
inspector was cursed at "in a threatening manner" by David
Partin, the No. 12 mine's superintendent.
The Kentucky complaint was filed the same day the nation's top
mine safety official, MSHA secretary Joe Main, told lawmakers in
Washington that federal officials will begin shutting down mines
that habitually ignore safety.
The Dept. of Labor is asking that the two mines be permanently
barred from violating provisions of the Mine Safety Act.
Inspectors at the Straight Creek No. 1 Mine say they heard
"someone call from an unknown location to tell the miners inside
the mine that six inspectors had the belts shut off," according to
a statement from Robert Barnes, a federal inspector based in
Barbourville, Ky.
Investigator Vince Smith said in court records he heard "a
miner talking to another miner underground" about their visit to
the RB No. 12 mine. A third inspector, John Sizemore, said he
received a call from Partin, who was "cursing" over the
violations issued at the RB No. 12 mine the day before.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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