Utah mine pays $70,000 for safety violations
The Associated Press
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
SALT LAKE CITY ” The operator of a coal mine where nine people died last summer has paid $70,000 in fines for health and safety violations at another Utah mine about 25 miles away.
Andalex Resources Inc., an entity controlled by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., has closed the Aberdeen mine where the citations originated about a year ago.
Aberdeen, also known as the Tower mine, is 7 miles north of Price, Utah.
An invoice provided Wednesday by federal regulators shows Andalex is contesting another, $420,000 fine at Aberdeen for accumulations of coal dust and hydraulic oil on equipment. Those fines were levied in March for violations in 2006 and 2007.
Since March, when Aberdeen was closed because of instability problems, regulators have fined the operator an additional $46,618 for operations at the mine.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that Andalex paid the fines adding up to $70,036, but couldn’t immediately explain the nature of those safety violations, which occurred in August 2007 and October 2007.
Murray Energy executive Rob Murray didn’t respond to questions e-mailed by The Associated Press.
Murray Energy’s Andalex Resources owns Genwal Resources Inc., the operator and co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine, where nine people died during two cave-ins in August 2007.
MSHA has stepped up its enforcement of coal mines since the Utah disaster. In a report released last month, an MSHA panel said the Crandall Canyon mine was destined to fail because the mining company and its engineers made critical miscalculations and didn’t report early warning signs.
As early as March 2007, pillars started unexpectedly collapsing. Murray Energy and its lawyers have taken strong exception to the accusation the company didn’t report a collapse that month that led it to abandon one section of the mine. Other government reports say the agency was given enough information about the devastating but nonlethal collapse on March 10, but failed to act or even inspect the damage.
MSHA was faulted in a separate report last month issued by its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Labor, for rubber-stamping a dangerous mining plan at Crandall Canyon.
The DOL report lambasted MSHA for lax oversight before the Aug. 6, 2007 collapse that entombed six miners ” their bodies have not been recovered ” and for its handling of a haphazard rescue effort that left three more people dead Aug. 16, 2007.
The nearby town of Huntington plans to dedicate a bronze memorial to the nine dead on Sept. 14.
MSHA said Andalex Resources paid the $70,036 in “overdue” fines in early June.
The agency couldn’t immediately explain why these fines were overdue, when they were supposed to be paid or whether the company had contested them.
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