The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration announced in a recent press release that six underground coal mines in Kentucky received numerous citations and closure orders by federal inspectors as a result of the nationwide impact inspections that took place last month. Each of these operations was forced to suspend production until the violations were corrected. Fifty-seven underground coal mines were targeted for these impact inspections, and each was selected based on its history of significant and/or repeat violations of safety standards concerning methane, mine ventilation and rock dusting. In addition, two of the six Kentucky mines since have been sued by the Labor Department for illegally providing advance notice of a federal inspector's presence on mine property.

Two hundred thirty-eight citations, 55 orders and one safeguard were issued to these six mines. In total, MSHA inspectors issued 109 withdrawal/failure to abate orders, 1,339 citations and six safeguards nationwide during the five-day inspection blitz that occurred April 19 to 23.

"After last month's tragic reminder of the consequences of failing to make safety a priority, it is appalling that these operations continued to flout fundamental safety and health standards," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "At the very least, they have failed to conduct their own mine examinations for hazards. Mine operators have a responsibility to provide for the safety and health of the miners they employ, and too many of the mines we inspected are failing to take that responsibility seriously."

The six mines in Kentucky that ceased production are D&C Mining Corp.; Straight Creek #1 Mine, Left Fork Mining Co. Inc.; RB#12, Manalapan Mining Co.; Mine #1, Conshor Mining; Butcher Branch, Red Bird Coal Co.; and Mine #1, Cawood Enterprises LLC. The orders have been terminated at five of the six mines. Conshor Mining abated its orders but shut down production. Red Bird Coal Co. chose to shut down its own operations rather than comply with the citations and orders it was issued. (See below for a list of withdrawal and failure to abate orders.)

In addition, two mines are facing additional legal consequences for actions they took relating to the inspections. On April 27, the Labor Department filed a lawsuit against Manalapan Mining Co. and Left Fork Mining Co. to prohibit them from interfering with MSHA in carrying out its duties under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. On April 19, MSHA inspectors arrived at these two operations to conduct inspections. They immediately informed mine personnel that persons working underground should not be given advance notice that an inspection party was present on the surface. However, these instructions were ignored. In each case, MSHA inspectors monitoring phone lines heard the advance notice. The Mine Act is clear that "no advance notice of an inspection shall be provided to any person."