Government mine inspectors have issued 325 citations against the mine since January 2004, according to an analysis of federal Mine Safety and Health Administration online records. Of those, 116 were what the government considered
"significant and substantial," meaning they are likely to cause injury.
Having 325 safety violations is not unusual, said J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the MSHA and now vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West
Virginia. "It's not perfect but it's certainly not bad."
This year, inspectors have issued 32 citations against the mine, 14 of them considered significant. Last month, inspectors cited the mine for violating a rule requiring that at least two separate passageways be designated for escape
in an emergency.
It was the third time in less than two years that the mine had been cited for the same problem, according to MSHA records. In 2005, MSHA ordered the mine owners to pay $963 for not having such escape routes. The 2006 fine for the same problem was just $60.
Overall, the federal government has ordered the mine owner to pay nearly $152,000 in penalties for its 325 violations, with many citations having no fines calculated yet. Since January, the mine owner has paid $130,678 in fines, according to MSHA records.
Asked about safety, Murray told reporters: "I believe we run a very safe coal
mine. We've had an excellent record."
Mining has always been dangerous, but there are ways to make it safer. Clearly the mine owners decided that it was cheaper to pay the fines, rather than fix the problems. The fine for NOT having escape routes was $963 in 2005 and $60 for 2006. I have no idea what it would have cost to build the required escape routes, but why should they when it's so much more profitable to pay the fine. While the fate of the six miners is not yet known, the lack of safety enforcement is.