Mine Safety Advocate Questions Federal & State Mine Penalty Enforcement

By: Danielle Morgan Email
By: Danielle Morgan Email

A mine safety advocate says federal and state enforcement is not proving to be any stronger with new mine safety laws.

Sixteen months after two men died in a roof fall at Stillhouse mine number one in Harlan County.

Federal inspectors found eight men working five miles underground with the mine fan off.

Officials say enforcement of both accidents are at a stand still, but a state spokesperson says a lack of inspections and penalties is a misconception.

After being called highly negligent in federal reports of the deadly roof fall that killed two miners in 2005, Flagrant is added to the description of Stillhouse Mine after federal investigators found eight men working with the ventilation fan off last December.

Mine Safety Attorney Tony Oppegard says mine ventilation fans keep methane, an explosive gas, from migrating and that’s a dangerous and illegal situation for miners,

Oppegard says more inspections should be done with enforced citations of mines building high accident rates.

“Stillhouse mine has more than double the rate of accidents of the national average,” Oppegard said.

Spokesperson for the environmental and public protection cabinet, Mark York says there's a misconception about state inspections and penalties being low.

Oppegard says the federal criminal investigation of the fatal roof fall nearly two years ago still has not been referred to the U.S. attorney for prosecution and with what Mark York calls a checkered history with MSHA in cooperating in enforcement.

He says the state is still waiting for federal inspectors to agree to testify for state proceedings when the ventilation fan was allegedly found turned off.

Black Mountain Resources, the parent company of Stillhouse Mine, currently faces 360-thousand dollars in fines for the 2005 fatal roof fall, money the company is contesting.

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