MSHA uses flagrant violation provision for first timeNearly a million dollars in penalties levied against a mine operator by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have been upheld by an administrative law judge with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

The MSHA found R & D Mine Coal Co., Inc. guilty of “flagrant” violations more than four years ago -- the first time violations were cited under MSHA's flagrant violation provision of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006.

The fines were assessed in April 2007 for violations contributing to an Oct. 23, 2006, explosives detonation that killed one miner at the underground anthracite coal mine in Tremont, Pa.

According to the MSHA, a methane explosion occurred in an inadequately ventilated area when an unconfined shot was detonated at the face. The accident, which killed Dale Reightler, occurred because the mine operator failed to comply with approved ventilation and roof control plans, engaged in poor blasting practices, assigned unqualified personnel to blasting work and conducted improper preshift examinations. Six of 10 violations that investigators cited as contributing to the accident were assessed as flagrant violations. The mine operator contested all of the violations.

R&D Mine Coal Co. ceased mining following the 2006 explosion and was sealed the following year.

In documents signed on Aug. 1 by Administrative Law Judge Avram Weisberger, the mine operator agreed to withdraw its contests of each violation and to the entry of a judgment for the full penalty amounts.