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DOL/MSHA News Release No. 03-27
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (202) 693-9400

Released Tuesday, January 21, 2003

MSHA Publishes Internal Review on Kentucky Slurry Spill
Agency Acts to Eliminate Weaknesses

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - The Mine Safety and Health Administration is correcting weaknesses in enforcement procedures following an internal review into the agency's actions prior to the October 2000 slurry spill at Martin County Coal Corporation's Big Branch impoundment, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski announced today.

"The purpose of the internal review was to conduct a critical self-examination to determine how MSHA management practices could be improved," Lauriski said. "By strengthening MSHA's internal management process, we can make more effective use of all the tools provided in the law - enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance - all aimed at increasing safety for miners."

Lauriski said that as a result of the review MSHA:

"During 2001 and 2002, the U.S. mining industry had its two safest years on record," Lauriski said. "Now our goal is to drive continuous quality improvements within MSHA and make safety a value throughout the mining industry."

On October 11, 2000, an inrush of water and slurry poured from the impoundment into an underground mine, burst through mine portals and flowed into tributaries of the Big Sandy River. MSHA accident investigators last year determined that the accident occurred because Martin County Coal Company failed to follow its approved sealing plan for the impoundment. No one was injured in the incident.

Associated Links:

  • Statement by Dave D. Lauriski
              Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
              Internal Review Report - Big Branch Slurry Impoundment Failure - January 21, 2003

  • Internal Review of MSHA'a Actions at the Big Branch Refuse Impoundment
              Martin County Coal Corporation (PDF)