Robert Murray

WASHINGTON — Murray Energy subsidiary Andalex Resources Inc. has received a $420,300 fine from the Mine Safety and Health Administration for "flagrant" fire and explosion safety violations at the Aberdeen Mine in Price.

"Mine operators that repeatedly violate mine safety standards must be held accountable for their actions," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a statement released Thursday.

MSHA assessed a $220,000 citation, issued Oct. 26, 2006, and another on June 20, 2007, at $200,300. MSHA said they were "flagrant violations" under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act based on Robert Murray's repeated violation of the same safety standard.

Murray, which owns Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington, controls Andalex Resources Inc., which operates the mine.

MSHA said the mine had "excessive accumulations of hydraulic oil, and fine coal particles covered the hoses, electric conduit and tram motors on electric equipment."

Murray also "allowed excessive accumulations of potentially explosive float coal dust and other combustible material to accumulate on a dangerously maintained conveyor belt," according to MSHA.

The government deems a violation "flagrant" when there is repeated failure to correct a known safety standard violation that could result in death or serious injury.

A message sent to Murray Energy Thursday was not returned.

Subsequent documentation from MSHA shows the problems eventually were corrected. The oil and coal dust was removed, and Murray reported that "18 men were assigned to work around the clock to correct the cited conditions."

About 432 man-hours were used to correct the conditions, according to the citation.

Congress and MSHA continue to investigate last summer's accident at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington. The bodies of six miners have been entombed in the mine since an August 2007 collapse. Days after the accident, three rescuers died while trying to dig out the men.

Murray has been subpoenaed to appear before a House and a Senate committee, but it is not clear when he will appear — or if he already has.

House Education and Labor Committee spokesman Aaron Albright said at this stage in the investigation "the committee is not able to disclose whether specific individuals have appeared for depositions or have agreed to do so in the future.

"The primary reason is that we do not want such information, if made public, to prejudice our investigation or other investigations that might also be under way," Albright said. "We will conduct this investigation thoroughly, fairly and expeditiously, and at its conclusion, we intend to make all pertinent information public."


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