Wilmoth said more criminal prosecutions are likely, in part because MSHA itself "has taken a tanning of the hide before congressional committees and their sensitivities are just a little heightened."
"You're going to see an increase in criminal prosecutions," Wilmoth said. "That's just one more arrow in the quiver."
Wilmoth said mine operators and their agents should be more careful not only in answering questions, but also always consult a lawyer before turning over any documents to MSHA.
"Maybe their request is overly broad and maybe there's something in there that hurts you, and you might not want to give that to them," Wilmoth said.
Also during Wednesday's event, coal industry lawyer Dave Hardy, a Kanawha County Commissioner, explained what he said were overly broad and onerous requirements from Congress that mine operators include mine safety data in their U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures for stockholders and potential investors.
"I never thought I would see Wall Street drill down or Congress drill down to this level of detail," Hardy said.
Hardy complained that the new disclosure requirements force mine operators to report the amounts of MSHA-proposed fines that could later be reduced or eliminated on appeal. And he said that four days isn't enough time for mine company executives to gather and file with the SEC any instances where MSHA inspectors issue "imminent danger" orders to their mining operations.
The coal symposium continues Thursday and Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.