MSHA seeks criminal charges in Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster
Little more than a year after nine men ultimately perished in a disaster in a Utah coal mine, MSHA has finally decided to seek criminal charges against mine operator Genwal Resources.
Posted: Thursday , 04 Sep 2008
RENO, NV -
The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday that the agency has asked the U.S. Attorney for Utah to conduct a criminal investigation into the August 2007 Crandall Canyon coal mining disaster, which ultimately killed nine men.
In a news release, Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA said, "Through its investigation of the tragic accidents last year at Crandall Canyon, MSHA determined that the operator and its engineering consultants demonstrated reckless regard for safety. MSHA has referred this case for possible criminal charges."
Previously, both the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions had requested a criminal probe of Crandall Canyon. House committee chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-California, said he believed that Laine Adair, General Manager of the Crandall Canyon coal mine, "willfully misled" federal officials.
Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for Utah's U.S. Attorney, Brett Tolman, said that information from both Miller's committee and MSHA's report on the dual mine pillar collapses will factor into decisions about possible criminal prosecution.
Kevin Anderson, the attorney representing Genwal Resources, which operated Crandall Canyon, told the Utah news media, ""Regrettably, this report does not have the benefit of all of the facts." He added that the report "appears to have been tainted in part by ten months of relentless political clamoring to lay blame for these tragic events." Genwal's parent company is Murray Energy.
Last July MSHA announced it has imposed $1.6 million in fines for violations by the mine operator which directly contributed to the deaths of six miners who were trapped when a catastrophic coal outburst accident occurred on August 7, 2007. Coal was blown into the mine opening in a section, which likely caused fatal injuries to miners Kerry Aldred, Don Erickson, Jose Luis Hernandez, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez.
Three more men died on August 16, 2007, when another coal outburst hurt rescue workers. Miners Dale Black and Brandon Kimber and MSHA inspector Gary Jensen were killed.
Anderson told the press that "the facts demonstrate that Genwal Resources Inc. endeavored in good faith to follow safe mining practices and truly believed the mine was safe-a belief that was shared at the time by MSHA itself."
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