In one violation, MSHA alleged that the company did not try to report the 6:36 a.m. explosion to federal authorities until at least 7:50 a.m. In the other, MSHA alleged that ICG wrongly did not contact mine rescue teams until 8:04 a.m.
At the time of the Sago explosion, such incidents were to be reported to MSHA "immediately" and the Sago operation's emergency plan called for mine rescue teams to also be notified immediately of fires and explosions.
Rescue teams did not begin arriving at the Sago mine until between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and did not go into the mine until 5:30 p.m. because of dangerous concentrations of gases underground, Feldman said in his new decision.
ICG officials argued that they had trouble reaching MSHA officials because Jan. 2 was a government holiday. They also said mine managers were underground trying to rescue missing miners and were worried that a phone call to MSHA would prompt a government order to evacuate the mine until specially trained rescue teams arrived.
Feldman wrote that MSHA's position "is understandable from an enforcement perspective."
"The failure to timely notify MSHA and rescue teams immediately after an accident is a serious violation," the judge wrote.
"Rescue teams have the experience and equipment to safely attempt to recover victims of mine accidents," Feldman wrote. "The presence of rescue teams also minimizes the exposure of mine personnel who, as in this case, subordinate their personal safety in an effort to save friends, colleagues or family members."
Feldman also ruled, though, that MSHA had failed "to distinguish between imprudent or ill-advised conduct, and aggravated and unjustified conduct.
"Wolf Run's delay was not motivated by a desire to avoid notifying MSHA of the accident," the judge wrote. "Nor was it an attempt to alter an accident scene. Rather, Wolf Run's delay was caused by its preoccupation with determining the condition of its miners who were underground at the time of the explosion."
Feldman reduced the seriousness classification of both enforcement orders and cut the total fines for the two orders from $14,500 to $11,000.
Roger Nicholson, ICG's general counsel, said the company does not plan to appeal to the full mine safety commission.
"As the ALJ correctly pointed out, the company's managers were selflessly engaged in ongoing efforts to rescue the missing crew, and all of our managers acted in singular good faith with the safety of their co-workers in mind," Nicholson said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.