U.S. coal miners owe over $62 million in health and safety violations fines

U.S. coal miners owe over $62 million in health and safety violations fines

Digging coal by machinery at the Brown Mine in West Virginia, mid-1900s. (Image by Lewis Wickes Hine | Library of Congress)

U.S. coal producers owed the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) more than $62 million in fines for health and safety violations as of late April, a report by SNL Energy shows.

According to the monthly impact inspection list, published by MSHA, most of those sanctions were at least two years old. However recent attempts to curb this sort of offences have not attracted enough backersĀ in Congress, says SNL report.

Two months ago, a couple of Democrat senators introduced a bill that would require mine-wide withdrawal orders for operations that are more than 180 days in arrears on paying fines or do not live up to payment plans.

The regulation also aims to reduce the list of over 6,000 contested violations by setting minimum penalty levels to lower the likelihood of operators trying to reduce fines through the appeals process, SNL notes.

The April inspection, conducted at mines in Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia, shows that the top ten coal miners alone had combined unpaid fines of $18.3 million

The monthly reviews, which began in force in April 2010, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 934 impact inspections and issued 14,246 citations, 1,247 orders and 56 safeguards