U.S. Labor Department announces $1.15 million Crandall Canyon disaster settlement
The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it had reached a $1.15 million settlement with the operators of the Crandall Canyon Mine and other Murray Energy Corp. subsidiaries in the case of the 2007 collapses at the mine that killed six miners and three rescuers.
The accident investigation conducted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) found that a grossly deficient mine design led to pillar failures, which caused the mine to collapse on Aug. 6, 2007, trapping six miners, Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Brandon Phillips, Carlos Payan, Manuel Sanchez and Don Erickson. “Consequently, the agency issued 20 enforcement violations to the miner’s operators and assessed penalties totaling $1,639,351,” said MSHA.
Rescue teams were dispatched immediately to clear the rubble to reach to an area 5.4 km (3.4 miles) from the mine entrance and 460 m (1,500 ft) underground. On August 16, 2007, underground rescue teams were less than halfway through the rubble to the suspected location of the trapped miners, when the mine collapsed again when a wall of the tunnel exploded, killing three rescue workers and injuring six others.
The three rescuers killed were Dale Black, Brandon Kimber and Gary Jensen, an MSHA inspector.
By Sept. 1, 2007, federal officials ended the search after four weeks. Murray Energy sealed the three main passageways, leaving the bodies inside the mine entombed.
Under the settlement, Murray Energy Corp. subsidiaries Genwal Resources and Andalex Resources acknowledged responsibility for the failures that led to the Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster. The operators accepted four of the citations and orders as “contributory,” including improper mine design, as well as the operators’ repeated failure to revise the design, despite knowing that it was inadequate to protect the miners from bursting coal pillars, said MSHA.
“The operators also agreed to classifying violations of three safety standards as ‘flagrant,’ the most serious type of violation under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 that can carry the highest penalty assessment,” said the agency.
Genwal Resources and Andalex Resources have agreed to pay a total of $949,351 in civil penalties, following some modifications to the enforcement actions. Three of the enforcement actions with a total of $340,000 in penalties have been vacated.
Murray Energy subsidies have agreed to pay $200,649 to settle other violations committed at other mines in Utah.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Joseph Main, said, “The violations contains in this settlement support MSHA’s findings that the mine operators allowed conditions at Crandall Canyon to deteriorate and ignored the warning signs. This was a tragedy that should have never happened,” Main stressed. “Miners deserve to return home after a shift in the same condition they left. MSHA will continue to fight for that right on behalf of our nation’s miners.”