The U.S. Department of Labor has recently reported that 321 citations and other orders were issued during the inspections of 13 mines during December 2011. Of the mines being cited, 10 were coal mines and the remainder were metal/nonmetal mines. In sum, coal mines received a total of 174 citations and 19 orders and metal/nonmetal mines received 112 citation and 16 orders.
The inspections take place monthly and focus on mines that have a history of non-compliance with federal safety protocols and high numbers of hazard complaints, injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, among other violations. One of the mines, Coal Creek Mining LLC’s Number 2 Mine in Kentucky was eventually shut down after 32 citations and 12 orders were issued when inspectors observed such safety and health violations as large coal pile fires burning near stored explosive, explosives that had not been secured against tampering, and burning coal near the mine’s intake portals.
Mines were frequently cited for lack of adequate workplace hazard examinations such as failure to examine electrical equipment on a weekly basis, failure to administer weekly return air course examinations, and lack of conveyor belt examinations. In the case of another mine, Hecla Limited’s Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho, 59 citations and 15 orders were placed for violations such as failure to maintain ground support systems in the mines, lack of shaft inspection and maintenance, failure to open two separate escape ways, insufficient handrails on elevated walkways, and cluttered travel areas posing risks for slips and falls. Earlier in 2011 two miners died at the Lucky Friday Mine and seven were trapped and subsequently hospitalized when they became trapped underground after a roof collapsed. Of the 387 inspections undertaken by the Department of Labor in 2011, total citations numbered 6,931, orders numbered 701, and safeguards numbered 23.