US Sues to Close Safety Law-Violating Massey Mine in Ky.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The US Department of Labor filed an unprecedented federal lawsuit yesterday seeking to close a mine operated by troubled coal producer Massey Energy Co. for continually violating safety laws.
The Labor Department has never sought an injunction to protect coal miners before, but is considering several more lawsuits, Patricia Smith, the agency's solicitor, said during a conference call.
Yesterday's lawsuit marks the latest step by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration to crack down on dangerous mines. Massey has 21 days to respond.
The agency has been targeting mines with poor safety records since an explosion killed 29 miners at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia on April 5. The blast was the deadliest at a US coal mine in 40 years and is the subject of criminal and civil investigations.
The lawsuit seeks to close Massey subsidiary Freedom Energy's Mine Number 1 in Pike County, Ky., until the company fixes violations and comes up with a way to prevent them in the future. The lawsuit asks that employees continue to be paid while the mine is offline.
"This is the mine that we believe is one accident away from a possible tragedy,'' Smith said.
MSHA said it has issued more than 2,000 citations and orders closing sections of the mine since July 2008 and injuries have been rising, though Smith said the government doesn't trust Massey's figures.
"We're not just looking at the injury rates, especially in this situation. My understanding is that Massey reported to its own shareholders that it underreports injury rates by approximately 37 percent,'' she said.
To Read the Rest of the Report