The U.S. Department of Labor'sMine Safety and Health Administrationand Massey Energy have reached a settlement agreement in a case involvingFreedom Energy Mining Co.'sMine No. 1 in Pike County, Ky. The MSHA filed a motion for preliminary injunction against the mine last November in federal court -- the first such action ever taken by the agency. According to an MSHA press release, Massey has announced plans to idle the mine permanently.

"Today's agreement is a legal victory not only for the Department of Labor but for all miners employed by Freedom Energy," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Its powerful provisions allow MSHA to withdraw miners immediately over a broad range of hazardous conditions, and health and safety violations. More than ever, these types of actions are forcing mine operators to take a hard look at their safety practices."

The order, signed by Judge Amul R. Thapar of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Kentucky, requires Freedom Energy to take certain actions to comply with a recovery plan that will ensure the health and safety of miners who continue to work at the mine as they dismantle and remove mine equipment in preparation for permanent closure.

In addition to the immediate withdrawal provisions, Freedom Energy must provide timetables for activities involving removal of all mining equipment. The highest level management official, including the mine superintendent, must be available at the mine during each working shift to review and countersign the results of each pre-shift, on-shift and weekly examination performed by a certified mine examiner. Miners idled as a result of any withdrawal covered by this order must receive pay for the period during which they were idled up to one week. For periods longer than one week, the company must offer alternate equivalent work within a 60-mile radius of the mine.

All requirements of the order are subject to the court's contempt proceedings