CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal regulators issued more than 300 more violations last month during inspection sweeps of the nation's underground coal mines, as the Obama administration continued what it said is stepped-up enforcement following the April deaths of 29 miners in an explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors issued 326 citations and orders at 15 mines in West Virginia and eight other states, with nearly half of those being classified as serious violations.
MSHA also took 232 enforcement actions at 15 metal and nonmetal mines, mostly in Western states including California and Nevada.
"We are continuing to find serious threats to miners' safety and health," said Joe Main, assistant labor secretary for MSHA. "While some operators are finally getting the message, others are not."
In a news release, MSHA noted Massey subsidiary Elk Run Coal Co.'s Seng Creek Powellton Mine, where agency inspectors in late September issued 11 closure orders alleging ventilation violations the agency said could lead to mine explosions and black lung disease.
Main, a former United Mine Workers safety director, launched what MSHA calls "impact inspections" after Upper Big Branch, to target mining operations with a poor compliance history, high number of accidents, and previous violations related to poor ventilation or faulty roof conditions.
Impact inspections in September also produced 60 citations and enforcement orders at three other Massey operations, the Triumph and Freedom Energy mines in Kentucky and the Marsh Fork Mine in West Virginia.
Less than a half-hour after MSHA's Tuesday announcement, Massey said it plans to shut down all of its underground mines for the day on Oct. 29 for a day of training and to "reinforce the fact that safety is more important than production."