Genwal Resources charged in Crandall Canyon Mine accident
Company kept mum about coal "outburst" prior to collapse
The owner of a Utah coal mine has been charged with criminal violations of mandatory health and safety standards under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, following a mine collapse that killed six miners and three rescuers.
The two-count Information, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City Friday afternoon, charges that Genwal Resources, Inc.failed to report a significant coal outburst to the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA). The incident occurred on March 10, 2007, disrupting regular mining activity for more than an hour and causing the permanent withdrawal of miners from the area.
Regulations require mining operators to contact MSHA within 15 minutes once they know that an accident has occurred.
The company was also accused of mining in an area that the MSHA-approved roof control plan expressly prohibited.
The company has agreed to plead guilty to both charges and to pay the maximum fine allowed under the law of $250,000 per count.
In the plea agreement that was reached, Genwal Resources admitted that it willfully did not report the March 10, 2007, accident to MSHA, and that it willfully mined barrier pillar in a prohibited area.
Six miners were trapped inside the Crandall Canyon mine following a catastrophic mine collapse on Aug. 6, 2007. Over the next several days, rescuers worked to reach the trapped miners. Ten days after the rescue attempt started, another massive coal outburst took the lives of three rescuers and injured six others. Rescue efforts at the mine were called off.
The agreement means that no other charges will be brought against the company or its officers with regard to the accident. Despite an extensive investigation conducted with the FBI, US Attorney General David B. Barlow said it was doubtful whether there was sufficient evidence of a criminal act to convince a jury to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Criminal laws require a very high standard," said Barlow. "We must prove that a person knew what the law required and knowingly and willfully violated it. We also must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. After considering the evidence, the law, and the heavy burden of proof we must carry in court, the charges we filed today meet this high standard.
“We recognize that nothing we can do will ever bring back the miners and rescuers who perished, restore the health of those who were injured during the rescue, or erase the nightmares that still haunt those who were first-hand witnesses to these tragedies. However, it is our hope that these charges, and the maximum penalties that come with them, will remind mining companies everywhere of the importance of obeying safety laws."