MSHA News Release: [06/15/2006]
Contact: Amy Louviere Dirk Fillpot
Phone: (202) 693-9406 (202) 693-9423
Release Number 06-1030-NAT
MSHA Sues Aracoma for Interfering with Accident Investigation
Massey Subsidiary Accused of Failing to Provide Documents, Access to Evidence
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has filed an injunction against the Aracoma Coal Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co., for failing to turn over to accident investigators documents and other evidence pertinent to the underground mine fire that claimed the lives of two miners last January. The civil suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
"The goal of a mine accident investigation is to determine the cause of the accident and whether the mine operator was complying with the law," said David G. Dye, MSHA's acting administrator. "This is the first time MSHA has been faced with a broad refusal by a mine operator to provide relevant documents in an investigation and, subsequently, the first time that this kind of civil action against a mine operator has been necessary."
Over the course of the investigation, MSHA has repeatedly requested from Massey a number of documents and items which it believes will shed light on the cause of the mine fire that occurred Jan. 19, 2006. According to MSHA, Massey's responses have been slow and, in some instances, non-existent. In a letter sent by MSHA to Massey's attorneys on May 26, a deadline of June 9 was set for Massey to supply previously requested documents and physical evidence. Since Massey either refused to provide or simply failed to provide several of the previously requested documents and physical evidence by that date, MSHA filed this injunction against the mine company to compel disclosure.
Among the documents and evidence Massey has failed to provide MSHA in its investigation are those that are relevant to mine management authority, mine ventilation, possible previous fires or like events, and mine construction projects.
The civil suit was filed under Section 108 of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. According to Section 108, the Secretary of Labor may institute a civil action for relief, including a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or any other appropriate order in federal district court whenever the mine operator or its agent violates, fails or refuses to comply with any order or decision issued under this act, or refuses to furnish any information or report requested by the Secretary according to the provisions of the act.
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