“Mine operators who game the system to avoid tough scrutiny by federal safety officials must be held accountable,” Miller said in a statement.
Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, said the trade group supported efforts to reduce the backlog of appeals. She said part of the problem was insufficient staff at MSHA to handle the appeals and changes to the law that ended a more informal dialogue between federal regulators and mining companies.
Federal law empowers MSHA to issue a letter to mine operators that have a number of safety citations to warn them that the mines may be sanctioned for a “‘pattern of violation.” Once a mine is so notified, the mine operator must take actions to reduce future violations or face drastic sanctions including mine closure for any future significant and substantial violation, the press release states.
The list released by the committee are those 48 mines that would have received this notice of a potential pattern of violation sanctions in October 2009 but for contested citations that had not been resolved, according to the committee.