Freedom Mine 1 (KY)

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Freedom Mine #1 is an underground operation in Pike County, KY, owned by Massey Energy.

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Mine Data

  • MSHA ID: 1507082
  • Operator: Freedom Energy Mining Company
  • Controller: Massey Energy Company
  • Union:
  • County: Pike
  • State: KY
  • Latitude: 37.62
  • Longitude: -82.36
  • 2007 Production (short tons): 1,324,159
  • Coal Type: Bituminous
  • Mining Method: Underground
  • Mine Status: Active
  • Average No. of Employees: 204

U.S. Department of Labor Files Injunction Against Massey for Mine Violations

In November 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor filed a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court against Massey Energy for its perpetual mine violations. The government cited persistently dangerous conditions in Massey Energy's Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County, Kentucky. The action, which is the toughest enforcement action available to federal regulators, would shut down the mine until the company addresses safety hazards and demonstrates it can operate the mine safely. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky, cited nearly 2,000 safety violations since mid-2008, including a deadly mine explosion in early 2010. The suit said that six roof falls occurred at the mine since Aug. 11, 2010.[1]

The Freedom Mine employs about 130 miners and was cited for safety violations more than 700 times in 2010 alone.[2]

On December 1, 2010, Massey Energy said it had idled the Freedom Mine amid increased regulatory scrutiny. The Freedom Mine No. 1 is one of three Massey-operated mines the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration had listed as having a pattern of safety violations, opening them up to greater oversight and potential closure if problems aren't fixed. The other two mines listed by MSHA as having a pattern of safety violations are the Upper Big Branch Mine and the Ruby Energy Mine, also in West Virginia.[1]

The company's board is exploring options, including whether to pursue a sale and open a formal auction. A variety of companies have been reported as having interest in Massey including Alpha Natural Resources, the nation's fourth-largest coal producer, and ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker. Massey is also is examining a recapitalization of the company to pay investors a dividend or buy back shares.[1]

Some of the incidents cited for scrutiny by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) included:[3]

  • May 4 – An MSHA inspector cites Freedom Mine for excessive coal dust again, noting the mine "has been cited over this condition 285 times in the past two years."
  • June 14 — In reference to the Freedom Mine, federal coal mine safety chief Kevin Stricklin writes in an internal e-mail: "We need to use this mine as a test case for injunctive action."
  • Sep. 11 — Two Freedom miners escape serious injury or death from a rockfall with debris 8 feet thick because a power outage had kept them from their work area.
  • Oct. 19 — Federal inspectors cite Freedom for six safety violations, including coal dust and ventilation.
  • Nov. 3 —The Department of Labor files for a first-ever federal injunction against a coal mine — Freedom Energy — nearly five months and more than 200 federal safety violations after MSHA's Stricklin identifies the mine as a test case.
  • Dec. 1 — Massey Energy decides to shut down Freedom Energy Mine #1, even though it insists it is safe.
  • Dec. 17 — At a federal court hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Amul Thaper does not give Massey Energy the dismissal it sought from the Labor Department's federal injunction. (On Dec. 23, the judge formally rejects the motion to dismiss.)

In January 2011, the Labor Department made an agreement with Massey that the Freedom mine's most senior managers must be directly involved in safety procedures and are personally responsible for violations. Miners continue to have paychecks and jobs if all or parts of the mine are shut down while safety problems are fixed. And shutdowns and fixes are immediate when unsafe conditions are spotted. The injunction against Freedom was the first time the Labor Department used its 33-year-old "injunctive relief" section of federal mining law, as part of the Obama administration's promised "get-tough" response to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.[3]

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Matt Whittaker, "Massey Idles Mine Amid Regulatory Scrutiny" Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2010.
  2. "Labor Dept. Asks Court To Close Massey Mine In Ky." Howard Berkes & Robert Benincasa, National Public Radio, November 3, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Howard Berkes, "Landmark Coal Mine Safety Enforcement Case Settled" NPR, January 6, 2011.

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