ARLINGTON, Va. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced last week that three mining operations have been put on notice of a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under Section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
The POV screening is the first one conducted since MSHA’s revised Pattern of Violations rule went into effect on March 25. These revisions improve MSHA’s ability to act when it finds a pattern of violations.
The three mines that received POV notices include a Floyd County mine, Tram Energy LLC’s Mine No. 1. According to MSHA, the mine received 120 S&S violations during the POV review period, with more than half of those violations involving elevated levels of operator negligence. MSHA issued 40 closure orders at Tram Energy during the POV review period, the most of any mine in the country. The company has incurred approximately $170,000 in civil penalties since it began operating in 2012, but to date has paid only $666.
The other two mines cited included Brody Mining LLC’s Brody Mine No. 1 in Boone County, W.Va., and Pocahontas Coal Company LLC’s Affinity Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va. MSHA’s review for POV covered all 14,600 of the nation’s mines. The agency is still reviewing the injury records of several mines to determine if they should be considered for a POV notice based on this screening.
Under the Mine Act, MSHA is authorized to issue a POV notice to mine operators that demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations. A POV notice, one of the agency’s toughest enforcement actions, is reserved for the mines that pose the greatest risk to the safety of miners. An S&S violation is one that is reasonably likely to result in a reasonably serious injury or illness. The Mine Act requires mines that receive POV notices to be issued withdrawal orders–effectively ceasing operations–for all S&S violations. After no mine was placed on POV for the first 33 years after the Mine Act went into effect, these POV notices mark the third year in a row that MSHA has used this critical tool to protect miners from serious hazards.
“MSHA’s new POV rule, which we will vigorously enforce, enhances protections for miners and shifts the responsibility for monitoring compliance and taking action to prevent POV enforcement actions to the operator,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
The new rule eliminated the requirement that MSHA consider only fully adjudicated orders in its POV review, shifted responsibility for monitoring compliance to the mine operator and mandated that operators submit corrective action programs to proactively address issues that could lead to a POV.