North / South America
Kentucky coal mine targeted by federal and state safety inspections
Jul, 06 2012
(WASHINGTON) -- A Kentucky coal mine targeted by federal and state safety inspections and under pressure to pay years of overdue fines has closed.
K and D Mining Inc.’s Mine No. 17 in Highsplint stopped producing coal June 22, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, said K and D has not abandoned its mine license, but mine officials have notified Congress that it won’t be reopening.
Billy Shelton, a Lexington attorney representing the mine, wrote last week to California Reps. George Miller and Lynn Woolsey, both Democrats, informing them the mine was closing and would be abandoned, leaving about 40 people out of work.
The two lawmakers asked mine operators Ralph Napier, John D. North and Jack H. Ealy last month to submit a plan for paying all of the $1.5 million in overdue fines that their mining companies owe the federal government.
“As for the outstanding penalties, the entities do not have the ability to pay the civil penalties now and/or in the foreseeable future,” Shelton wrote in a letter obtained by The Courier-Journal.
Kentucky regulators have been investigating whether mining licenses of K and D employees should be revoked after a federal safety inspection in May uncovered numerous dangerous conditions. The state also inspected the mine and found similar problems.
MSHA found so many safety hazards during a surprise inspection May 16 that the mine was closed for nine days to fix the problems.
Documents obtained by the newspaper showed inspectors found little or no air ventilation where miners were working, thick accumulations of coal dust that can cause black lung or lead to explosions, a broken methane-gas warning light, conveyor belts rubbing against metal and covered in coal dust as deep as 9 inches, and a mining machine with 22 electrical hazards and clogged water sprays.
One federal inspector wrote that the mine operator “has engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence.”
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