West Virginia mines hit with safety citations during inspections

On behalf of Chad Lovejoy

Despite increase in inspections, experts say most dangerous mines may not pay

Four West Virginia mines were struck with a total of 40 citations during impact inspections in September, according to the State Journal. The inspections, conducted by the Mine and Safety Health Administration (MSHA), were instigated as a response to the deadly Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010. Despite the increase, however, a recent investigation has found that some companies fail to pay millions of dollars in fines, with delinquent companies often operating mines with much higher mine injury rates.

Impact inspections

The MSHA inspected 13 mines in September, four of which were in West Virginia. In total, the agency issued 192 citations, five orders and a safeguard against the 13 mines. Of the four West Virginia coal mines, three received eight citations each, while the fourth received 16 citations.

The impact inspections began in response to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 miners in 2010. Since that time, MSHA has issued 13,140 citations, 1,194 orders and 55 safeguards.

Delinquent mines more dangerous

Despite the growing number of inspections and citations, a recent investigation found that some mines simply don't bother to pay those fines. According to NPR, about 7 percent of mining companies have unpaid safety fines, with the average fine being between two and 10 years old, although some unpaid fines reach back 20 years.

Most worryingly, however, is that the small number of companies that don't pay often have the worst mine injury rates. The injury rate per 200,000 workers was 3.0 for non-delinquent mines, but rose to 4.5 injured workers at mines operated by delinquent companies. Experts say that regardless of the increased citations, mining companies face little in the way of punishment if they fail to pay their fines. Delinquent companies owe a total of $70 million in fines, with the worst violator alone owing over $4.3 million.

Mine accidents

As the above story shows, coal mining is a dangerous industry and headlines are constantly filled with news of miners being injured or killed in West Virginia. While many miners understand that their profession is a risky one, mining companies should never be let off the hook if they fail to do all they can to ensure the safety of their workers.

Anybody who has been injured, or who has a loved one who was killed, in a mine accident should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If an accident was partly attributable to the negligence of a mine operator, then injured miners will want all the help they can get to make sure any such alleged negligence does not go unpunished. Furthermore, the injuries sustained by miners can be costly, leading as they often do to medical expenses and lost income, and any amount of potential compensation can go a long way in helping miners deal with such costs.