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Coal company fined $420K for 'flagrant' violations

  • Story Highlights
  • Feds say Andalex Resources violated rules on fire, explosion hazards
  • Company fined for allowing flammable coal dust on machinery, in air
  • Andalex controlled by Bob Murray, co-owner of Crandall Canyon mine
  • Crandall Canyon known for 2007 collapse that killed miners, rescuers, official
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(CNN) -- Federal authorities on Thursday ordered Andalex Resources Inc. to pay $420,300 in fines for "flagrant violations" at a coal mine it operates in Price, Utah.

Bob Murray speaks to reporters during the search for trapped miners at the Crandall Canyon mine last year.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration assessed the fines "for violations relating to potential fire and explosion hazards at the Aberdeen Mine," a statement from the agency said.

Andalex Resources is controlled by Bob Murray, who was the co-owner and operator of another mine in Utah that collapsed last year, resulting in nine deaths.

The fines announced Thursday were based on citations issued in 2006 and 2007 for what were called "flagrant violations" under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, and the "operator's repeated violation of the same safety standard."

MSHA records from two routine inspections indicated that fine coal particles were allowed to cover the hoses, electric conduit and tram motors on electric equipment, providing fuel if a fire ignited.

"In addition, the mine operator allowed excessive accumulations of potentially explosive float coal dust and other combustible material to accumulate on a dangerously maintained conveyor belt," the release said.

A flagrant violation is defined as "a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury."

"Mine operators that repeatedly violate mine safety standards must be held accountable for their actions," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in Thursday's news release.

A call to Andalex was not immediately returned.

Last summer, nine people died, including three during a rescue attempt, in the Crandall Canyon mine, which has since been closed.

Six miners were entombed by the August 6 collapse and two rescuers and a federal mining official died in a second collapse 10 days later as they attempted to tunnel toward the area where the miners had been working.

Throughout efforts to reach the miners, Murray maintained the collapse was caused by a small earthquake. However, seismologists said it was more likely that it was the collapse itself that registered as a 3.9-magnitude quake on seismographs.

Relatives of the dead miners testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor that Murray Energy, the company that owned the Crandall Canyon mine, valued production over safety. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Mining Accidents and DisastersCrandall Canyon MineUtah

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