The Mine Safety and Health Administration says it issued 254 citations, 19 orders and one safeguard during special inspections at West Virginia coal mines last month.
Among those targeted was Argus Energy’s Deep Mine No. 8 in Wayne County, where inspectors issued 87 citations, one unwarrantable failure citation and eight unwarrantable failure orders.
MSHA said No. 8 was targeted for its history of noncompliance: It’s had 23 accidents since April 2011, 12 just since January. In all, the agency said it’s issued 386 citations and 22 orders against Argus, owned by James Booth.
In the latest inspection, Argus was cited for allowing combustible materials to accumulate, including piles of coal that were 100 feet long and 2 feet deep.
Argus was also cited for electrical violations and failure to support the mine’s roof and walls.
In a separate enforcement blitz this month, MSHA issued citations and enforcement orders at Road Fork No. 1 in Wyoming County, an Alpha Natural Resources mine where a conveyor belt had caught fire.
Inspectors found inoperable smoke detectors and fire suppression systems, and accumulations of explosive coal dust as deep as 18 inches, The Charleston Gazette reported.
MSHA said mine managers charged with doing safety inspections failed to report or record obvious safety hazards, or fix the ones they did list.
MSHA coal administrator Kevin Stricklin said the conditions were like those at Aracoma Coal Co.’s Alma No. 1 mine, where two West Virginia miners died in a January 2006 fire. The mine was owned by Massey, which Virginia-based Alpha bought a year ago this week.
“We had smoke that was visible to the naked eye, and production was continuing,” Stricklin said. “I’m disturbed that when we got to the mine and they knew that they had smoke, that we had to order the operator to remove the people from the mine.”
Failure to evacuate miners at Aracoma led to criminal charges that resulted in a plea bargain in 2008.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says he’ll review the violations cited at Road Fork.
Alpha said earlier this week its “Running Right” safety program is working overall.
“Admittedly, some operations don’t progress as quickly as others,” spokesman Ted Pile said. “We had 65 operations go the full year last year without a reportable injury, and we had some operations that didn’t do well. So there’s work to do.”