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Mine Commission Upholds MSHA Citations after Sago

U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration logo

A federal commission found that a mine operator’s failure to notify MSHA and mine rescue teams immediately after an explosion in 2006 was inexcusable. . Twelve miners were killed as a result of the infamous blast also known as the Sago Disaster.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday  that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission overturned a decision by an Administrative Law Judge.  

The Commission has overturned a decision by Administrative Law Judge Jerold Feldman involving the Wolf Run Mining Co.’s Sago Mine in Upshur County.

The Department of Labor said in a release that although the explosion occurred at January 2 at 6:26 a.m MSHA was not contacted until 7:50 a.m.  Efforts to reach a mine rescue team member at his home did not take place until 8:04 a.m.

MSHA issued a citation to the mine operator for failure to immediately notify the agency of the explosion.

The overturned judge Feldman apparently agreed with the company’s reasoning for the late response, saying that commission case law permitted the operator a reasonable amount of time to investigate the event before contacting authorities.

Feldman also thought it reasonable for the operator to allow mine management to execute a rescue attempt first since they would be barred from entering the mine after MSHA arrived.

MSHA appealed and the commission agreed to reinstate the citations for “unwarrantable failure and high negligence.”, The commission upheld MSHA’s previously proposed penalties of $1,500 and $13,000 for two separate citations.

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