Of course, that was what was found only on inspection days. Federal law requires underground coal mines to be inspected four times a year. Inspections are never announced. Depending on a mine's size, quarterly inspections may last days, weeks or longer. In some cases, mines are so large that MSHA inspectors are on site 365 days a year, Louviere said.
MSHA officials say some mines have more violations simply because inspectors are on site more often. To try to better compare apples to apples, the Deseret Morning News figured a rate of violations per "inspection event number" listed by MSHA. (Utah mines each had between 50 to 300 "inspection events" of varying types listed since 2004).On average, inspectors found four violations per inspection event at Utah mines, and 1.5 of them were serious. The highest and lowest rates were at mines operated by Murray. The Horizon Mine had a rate of 9.1 violations per inspection event (with 4.1 as serious), and the Pinnacle Mine had 0.5 per inspection (0.2 as serious). Crandall Canyon had more than average, 6.3 (with 2.2 rated serious).
Inspectors issued "imminent danger withdrawal orders" seven times in Utah mines since 2004. Such orders are used "to immediately remove miners from exposure to serious hazards and to prevent miners from entering such hazardous areas," according to MSHA rules. At least portions of mines were closed by the orders.
The Aberdeen Mine (controlled by Murray) received four such orders, two in 2004 and one each in 2005 and 2006. The Sufco Mine received one in 2005. And the West Ridge Mine (controlled by Murray) received two in 2006.
The Crandall Canyon Mine received no such orders.
MSHA notes that an imminent danger order "usually involves one or more violations of a mandatory health or safety standard," and contributing violations are usually later given separate citations.
For example, an imminent danger citation at the Aberdeen Mine on Feb. 2, 2005, was accompanied by citations the same day for dangerous accumulation of coal dust (resulting in a $5,100 fine); not following a ventilation plan (a $3,400 fine); and failure to seal an area if evaluations cannot determine whether ventilation dilutes and moves methane and other dust and fumes from worked-out areas to the mine surface (a $3,400 fine).
Also, if problems identified in routine violations are not fixed within a time period that inspectors believe is reasonable, that can lead to a follow-up order to "withdraw" from affected areas until the problem is fixed.Utah mines have received 22 such follow-up withdrawal orders since 2004. The Crandall Canyon Mine had three tying it for the most with four other mines.
Inspectors on 156 occasions since 2004 have cited Utah coal mines for what are called Section 104(d) violations, which involve serious negligence.
MSHA guidelines say such citations are used when a "mine operator or contractor has engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence" that results in violations that significantly and substantially endanger health or safety.
The Crandall Canyon Mine, for example, had 14 such violations.
Violations there included one in February for failure to have "at least two mine rescue teams available at all times when miners are underground."
Others in December were for failing to conduct a pre-shift exam of areas planned for mining and for improper maintenance of incombustible rock dust (designed to help prevent explosions). One in 2004 was for having equipment improperly obstructing an escapeway.The mine with the most such violations was the Aberdeen Mine (also now controlled by Murray) in Carbon County. It had 42. They also ranged from citations for excess coal dust to not keeping escapeways clear, not having sufficient rescue teams available and lacking pre-shift safety examination of work areas.
Most of the violations that Utah mines receive are repeats.
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