MSHA announces public hearings on Upper Big Branch disaster

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Following criticism about a lack of transparency in the Mine Safety and Health Administration's investigation into the April 5 Upper Big Branch Mine-South explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 workers, the agency last week announced a series of public meetings. MSHA said the meetings will include:

  • A public hearing where miners, contractors and mine officials would be asked to testify (by subpoena if necessary)
  • A public hearing examining theories about the cause of the explosion
  • A public forum in which family members could discuss the explosion, response, investigation, and potential mine safety and health reforms
The Triangle, VA-based United Mine Workers of America filed a lawsuit (.pdf file) Monday challenging MSHA's decision to interview witnesses to the Upper Big Branch explosion in private.

In related news, MSHA announced the production halt of six Kentucky coal mines during an April 19-23 inspection blitz (.pdf file). Additionally, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against two mine companies for interfering with MSHA inspectors during the blitz. According to MSHA, the companies notified underground personnel that inspectors had arrived, which is a violation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act.

The blitz resulted in 1,339 citations and 109 orders.



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