Seven months after taking action to strengthen enforcement efforts regarding delinquent fines and mine violations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that 49 mine operators have either taken steps to enter into payment agreements or satisfied their delinquent debts, resulting in $5.2 million in recovered fines.
“A robust Scofflaw Program is critical to protecting the health and safety of our nation’s miners,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo. “Failure to pay penalties is unfair to both miners who deserve safe workplaces as well as operators who play by the rules. While ninety percent of all penalties assessed for health and safety violations are paid in a timely manner, MSHA will continue to use all available enforcement mechanisms to collect unpaid fines.”
In March 2018, MSHA Assistant Secretary Zatezalo announced plans to strengthen the Scofflaw Program, an initiative aimed at collecting unpaid fines from delinquent mine operators. Following the announcement, MSHA delivered 30-day demand letters to an initial list of delinquent mine operators, providing them with an opportunity to set up a payment plan and making clear the consequence of non-payment.
If mine operators fail to show good faith and make penalty payment arrangements, MSHA pursues collection of the fines owed through all legal means at its disposal. If necessary, MSHA can pursue a Mine Act 104(b) withdrawal order, which forces mine operators to cease production until fines are resolved. To date, MSHA has issued 12 104(b) orders; all but two mines have reopened and resumed operations after making payment arrangements.