MSHA makes first-ever request for mine shutdown

For the first time, the Mine Safety and Health Administration asked a federal judge to temporarily shut down a mine for persistent safety and health violations.

MSHA filed a motion (.pdf file) last week for a temporary injunction against Freedom Energy Mining Co.'s Mine No. 1 in Pike County, KY. The mine is owned by Massey Energy Co., owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine-South in West Virginia, where an explosion killed 29 miners in April.

In a complaint (.pdf file) filed Nov. 3, MSHA alleged Freedom Energy failed to clear the mine of excessive coal dust; protect the roof, face and ribs from falls; test and maintain electrical equipment; and effectively ventilate the mine of noxious and explosive gases. Six major roof falls have occurred at the mine since Aug. 11, according to the agency.

In 33 years, the agency never has exercised its authority to seek a court order to shut down a mine. If the motion is granted, Freedom Energy will have to take specific actions to abate hazards before reopening.

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