The Global Report

'Lack of leadership' put miners at risk, govt. report says

Added under Labor

Federal mine-safety regulators have failed to take tough enforcement action against mines with a history of repeated violations, according to a government report released this week. The Labor Department's inspector general faulted the Mine Safety and Health Administration's "lack of leadership" in administering a program that was supposed to catch mines with patterns of violations.

The inspector general's investigation was started after the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded in April, killing 29 miners. Federal mine safety regulators blamed the lapse in oversight on a faulty computer application that should've prompted them to issue a warning to mine operators months in advance of the fatal accident.

According to the 1977 Mine Act, when regulators identify a "pattern of violations," they have the authority to take tougher enforcement actions, which could include shutting down the mine or seeking a court injunction to do so. But since the law's enactment, the agency has not exercised its authority, according to the report, and while it warned operators that a mine could be designated with "pattern of violation" status, the agency has come close to following through with the warning only once in more than three decades. From the report:

Sources: ProPublica

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