MSHA crackdown yields thousands of citations

Federal mine inspectors issued about 200 withdrawal orders and 2,660 citations -- almost half of which were for "significant and substantial" violations -- during targeted inspections at 111 mines from April to August, the Mine Safety and Health Administration announced this week.

MSHA launched the "impact inspections" after 29 miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine-South in West Virginia.

Operators were selected based on criteria including poor compliance history, frequent hazardous complaints, and high numbers of violations or closure orders, according to an MSHA press release. To catch operators off guard, inspectors used tactics such as arriving in the late afternoon or evening, driving unmarked government vehicles, and seizing mine phones to prevent communication between surface and underground miners.

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