CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two Massey Energy mines in Southern West Virginia were among those removed from review for potential tougher enforcement last year by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, agency officials confirmed Tuesday.
Massey's Justice No. 1 and Black Castle mines were among those MSHA identified for possible "pattern of violations" orders, but did not review in more detail because of agency "resource limitations."
Two other coal producers, CONSOL Energy and Argus Energy, also had two mines on the list of nine operations that MSHA dropped from further review for tougher enforcement.
The Argus Energy mines were the Copley Trace Surface Mine and the Deep Mine No. 8, both in Wayne County. The CONSOL mines were the Bronzite No. III in Mingo County and the Laurel Fork Mine in McDowell County. But, MSHA records indicate CONSOL took over those operations in July 2009 and March 2009, respectively, probably after the violations that MSHA was examining would have taken place.
All nine mines on the MSHA list are in West Virginia.
The others were International Coal Group's Sentinel Mine in Barbour County, KWV Operations LLC's Pond Creek Mine No. 1 in Mingo County and Rio Group Inc.'s Coalburg No. 2 Mine.
Last week, a Department of Labor Inspector General's report revealed that MSHA had cited "resource limitations" in cutting back on its pattern of violations reviews of coal-mine operators. Labor Department officials had told Congress they had sufficient money for the program.
"We are very concerned about mines removed for reasons other than appropriate consideration of the health and safety conditions at those mines," the inspector general said in a preliminary report. "MSHA is not subjecting these mines to the enhanced oversight that accompanies potential POV status, yet it does not have evidence that they had reduced their rate of significant and substantial violations. As a result, miners may be subjected to increased safety risks."
Congress asked the inspector general to review the pattern of violations program after MSHA disclosed that a computer glitch had led it to not issue an enforcement warning letter to Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners were killed in an April 5 explosion.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at email@example.com or 304-348-1702.