by Ellen Smith, Mine Safety and Health News
While Congress looks for sources of funding, they may want to just ask mining companies to pay their overdue bills. A one-day snapshot by Mine Safety and Health News found operators owing $55 million in delinquent penalties. The Civil Penalties Special Report reveals coal companies owe the government $36 million in delinquent penalties and metal/nonmetal operators owe $11.9 million. The remaining amount was owed by contractors and a few miners or agents for operators. The delinquent penalties owed by mine operators is different from another problem with our mine safety enforcement system, the 4-year backlog of contested MSHA cases before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.
MSHNews‘ report offers the one-day snapshot because the amount of penalties owed by mine operators changes daily as payments are updated by MSHA. It does show however a pattern of delinquent payments for some of the leading mining companies in the world including Consol, Massey, Arch Coal, LaFarge and companies controlled by Greenbriar-owner James Justice II, and Horace Garrison Hill.
MSHNews provides its own list of “scofflaws” in the report. These are mine operators that MSHA or the US Department of Treasury Department has had little to no success collecting the delinquent debt. In addition, three mines listed on MSHA’s Potential Pattern of Violations list have delinquent penalties over $100,000.
The Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act (S.153) would mandate that operators pay civil penalties within 90 days of the penalty becoming a final order, or enter into payment plan based on a demonstrated inability to pay. If a penalty is delinquent after 180 days, MSHA would have the authority to withdraw miners
from the mine with the delinquency, until a payment plan is in place.
Ellen Smith is the owner and managing editor of Mine Safety and Health News. She has been coverning miners’ health and safety since 1987.