NPR’s Howard Berkes is reporting that the Labor Department is asking a federal judge to issue an injunction against a Kentucky coal mine for warning its miners of an inspection. The mine in question is CAM Mining’s #28 Mine in Pike County and the injunction would prohibit anyone at the mine from issuing advance warnings. Violation of that could result in fines or jail time.
As Berkes reports:
The inspectors say they staged the inspection after a complaint from a miner that workers underground were using smoking materials. The Labor Department complaint in U.S. District Court in Kentucky says smoking and the use of lighters underground has caused four major mine explosions and 24 deaths since 1977.
“Smoking materials present a grave danger to miners working in any mine, but particularly so in a mine that has both a history of methane liberation and hydrocarbon ignitions,” the complaint says. “Any flame produced during the lighting of a cigarette is sufficient to cause an explosion that could kill every person working in the vicinity and potentially any person working underground.”
The Labor Department says CAM Mine #28 has a history of explosive levels of methane and hydrocarbons.
The federal government has increased the frequency of surprise mine inspection since last April’s explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. It’s illegal to warn miners underground that inspectors have arrived at the mine, and a Massey Security Chief was indicted for allegedly doing that at Upper Big Branch.