04/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mine Safety Agency Was "Negligent" In Protecting Utah Miners

The Labor Department's Inspector General said Monday that the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation's coal miners was "negligent" in protecting the workers at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

The Mine Safety and Health Agency also could not ensure that its approval of the mining plan at the Utah mine was free of undue influence by the mine's operator, Murray Energy, the Inspector General says in a report issued Monday.

MSHA responded to the report that the word "negligent" was misleading and expressed concern that the independent investigating arm of the Labor Department was implying its decisions were affected by undue influence.

But the Inspector General says its findings "remain unchanged."

The report found that:

MSHA was negligent in carrying out its responsibilities to protect the safety of miners. Specifically, MSHA could not show that it made the right decision in approving the Crandall Canyon Mine roof control plan or that the process was free from undue influence by the mine operator. MSHA did not have a rigorous, transparent review and approval process for roof control plans consisting of explicit criteria and plan evaluation factors, appropriate documentation, and active oversight and supervision by Headquarters and District 9 management. Further, MSHA did not ensure that subsequent inspections assessed compliance with, and the effectiveness of, approved plans in continuing to protect miners.

MSHA and mine operator officials worked together to develop rescue plans related to the August 2007 tragedy, with MSHA exercising final approval authority over all activities. MSHA, however, lacked guidance on appropriate non-rescue activities.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts released a statement saying:

We've argued for years that many at the upper levels of MSHA are more interested in helping mine operators increase production than they are in helping miners stay safe. The Kennedy report and the OIG report both blow the lid off the internal workings of the agency, exposing for all to see what actually happens and confirming what we've said.