Until 2011, in the more than 30 years since Congress created the program, MSHA had never successfully put a single mining operator on a pattern-of-violation status.
In a press release issued Thursday afternoon, MSHA outlined what it said were the reasons for putting the West Virginia mines that were placed on POV status:
| Patriot's Brody Mine No. 1 received 253 "significant and substantial" violations during the 12-month review period that ended Aug. 31. An MSHA audit of the mine's records found that injuries of miners resulted in 1,757 lost-work days at the mine, 367 of which were from eight injuries that the company did not report to MSHA. A separate audit last year found 29 injuries that were not reported.
| Metinvest's Affinity Mine received 124 significant and substantial violations during the review period, a quarter of which MSHA cited as involving "high negligence or reckless disregard" for the health and safety of miners. Two miners died in separate accidents, both involving "scoop" vehicles, and the mine received 35 closure orders, the third highest in the country.
Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for MSHA, said that the Brody mine would have been placed on pattern-of-violation status under the old criteria. The Affinity Mine would not have been placed on that status under the old criteria, Louviere said.
In a prepared statement, Patriot said it acquired the Brody Mine effective Dec. 31, 2012, and that many of the violations cited by MSHA in the POV finding occurred prior to that time. Patriot said it has made major improvements in safety performance at the operation, and intends to vigorously fight MSHA's POV notice.
Mark McCormick, general counsel for Metinvest's United Coal division, of which Affinity is a part, said it was unfair for MSHA to use citations and orders that his company is appealing in making a POV determination for the operation.
The National Mining Association and other industry groups are challenging the new MSHA POV rule through a lawsuit filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, McCormick noted.
"We were disappointed that MSHA didn't take into account a number of mitigating circumstances," McCormick said. He said the company has launched several safety initiatives at the Affinity Mine and that the operation hasn't had a lost-time injury in the last 100 days.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.