MSHA responds to inspector general's alert memorandum

Jun 30, 2010, 17:22 ET from U.S. Department of Labor

US Labor Department's IG draws attention to gaps in Pattern of Violations program

ARLINGTON, Va., June 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today responded to last week's alert memorandum issued by the department's Office of Inspector General, which highlights flaws in MSHA's past implementation of its Pattern of Violations authority, including setting limits on the number of mines the agency targeted for potential POV because of resource limitations. The Pattern of Violations process looks at mines with an inspection history of recurrent significant and substantial violations of mandatory safety or health standards.

"Upon receiving the alert memorandum from the inspector general, I ordered inspectors to make an additional visit to every one of the coal-producing mines on the list that the IG said were not put on potential POV status in 2009 because of resource issues," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.  "Prior to this action, these mines had been subjected to numerous inspections and enforcement activity."  

The Pattern of Violations screening process that the IG currently is investigating is no longer in use.  "The career leadership at MSHA was following the existing policies in place prior to my arrival at MSHA, and I do not agree with these policies," said Main.  "Going forward, decisions about potential POV and POV enforcement actions will be based solely on what is best for the safety and health of the miners, within legal and regulatory constraints."

MSHA intends to rewrite the existing MSHA policies governing POV prior to the next round of POV decisions later this year.  "This will ensure that the first POV determinations under my watch will be handled differently," said Main.

Main noted he shares the IG's concern that district managers were asked to limit the number of mines to be placed into potential POV status, especially in MSHA's District 4 office in southern West Virginia, which has the highest concentration of coal mines in the country.  "While I understand that concern, a better response would have been to split District 4, so that all of the mines that need attention can receive attention.  We have advocated for exactly that and are exploring ways to accomplish it.  This is a better approach to handle the workload issues in District 4," Main said.

Here is a list of the mines removed from potential POV because of resource constraints

(all located in West Virginia):

Mine Name



Sentinel Mine

Wolf Run Mining Co.

International Coal Group Inc.

No. 1 Mine (now Bronzite III)

Jacob Mining LLC

Wolford Jeffrey

Coalburg No. 2 Mine

Rio Group Inc.

Richard H. Abraham

Copley Trace Surface Mine

Argus Energy WV LLC

James H.Booth

Pond Creek Mine No. 1

KWV Operations LLC

Robert Helton

Deep Mine No. 8

Argus Energy WV LLC

James H. Booth

Black Castle Mining Co.

Elk Run Coal Co.

Massey Energy

Justice No. 1 Mine

Independence Coal Co.

Massey Energy

Mine No. 6 (now Laurel Fork Mine)

Harvest-Time Coal Inc.

Dick J. Plaster

These mines have been subject to numerous inspections and enforcement activity.

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SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor