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$106,000 price tag put on recent Sago fines

WASHINGTON — The federal government said Wednesday it had fined the company that owns the West Virginia mine where a dozen miners were killed in January more than $100,000 in new penalties.The fines were for 43 citations that had previously been issued, but which had not yet received a price tag.They are part of 208 citations that the federal agency issued against Ashland, Ky.-based International Coal Group for problems at Sago in the calendar year prior to the Jan. 2 explosion.The new fines, totaling $105,840, are in addition to a little more than $24,000 previously assessed.Many of the new fines are meant to address serious health and safety violations.The largest fine was for $9,600 and involved roof support problems. Another fine for $9,200 dealt with ventilation problems.None of the penalties the government previously issued at Sago exceeded $1,000, a fact that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and worker representatives.
The mine agency recently announced plans to overhaul its penalty system and said the change likely would lead to a general increase in its fines.The agency’s minimum penalty is $60, while $60,000 is its maximum.International Coal Group Vice President Charles Snavely said late Wednesday his company had not received word about the new fines.“MSHA, to ICG’s knowledge, has not shared this information with ICG, and therefore the company cannot comment,” Snavely said through a spokesman.After it receives notification, a mine operator has a month to decide whether to appeal.The agency had increased its inspections of the Sago mine prior to the accident.“The fines assessed reinforce MSHA’s stepped-up and aggressive enforcement record at the Sago Mine before the tragic disaster occurred on Jan. 2,” David Dye, the acting head of MSHA, said in a statement Wednesday.
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