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Ellen Smith
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Ellen Smith is the managing editor of Mine Safety and Health News, a biweekly print-only newsletter. She has been covering mining issues since 1987 and has won 28 journalism awards for her reporting. She won three awards for reporting on the 2006 Sago Mine Disaster, including the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in Newsletter Journalism. She has been recognized for her analytical and interpretive reporting on Freedom of the Information Act, and credit card abuse at the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Blog Entries by Ellen Smith

Court Won't Hold Government Accountable for Negligent Mine Inspections: Aracoma Widows Lose FTCA Lawsuit Against MSHA

Posted February 9, 2011 | 12:31:42 (EST)

Although the 2006 Aracoma Mine disaster was "undeniably tragic," a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the widows' cannot sue the federal government for the Mine Safety and Health Administration's negligent inspections where the government inspectors failed to find obvious violations that led to the fatal fire that killed two...

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Coal Dust Propagated Upper Big Branch Explosion: MSHA

Posted January 19, 2011 | 14:58:47 (EST)

The fatal April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine started with a frictional ignition on the longwall face involving as little at 13 cubic feet of methane that would not normally be expected to cause such devastation, MSHA investigator believe from their analysis to date.

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OIG: MSHA's Regulatory Failures Stem From Consistent Lack Of Leadership

Posted September 29, 2010 | 19:49:09 (EST)

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's failure to improve the safety standards of repeat offenders results from a systemic lack of focus and leadership that spans decades, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the Inspector General.

MSHA has not successfully exercised its Pattern...

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Officials Find Signs of Excessive Coal Dust in Mine That Exploded

Posted September 17, 2010 | 15:01:13 (EST)

Federal investigators searching for the cause of the April 5 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster have collected evidence suggesting that the mine owner, Massey Energy, failed to adequately control coal dust.

During a Friday morning press conference, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said it has collected 1,803...

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Footage Emerges of Dangerous Leaks That Got Miner Fired (VIDEO)

Posted August 19, 2010 | 18:26:01 (EST)

A miner engaged in a "protected activity" under the Mine Act when he made a video tape of leaking mine seals, and showed the tape of the violation at a public hearing held by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, a judge ruled.

...

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Government Gets Tough on Mine Safety Violators

Posted July 20, 2010 | 13:09:37 (EST)

A small Kentucky operator, with the reputation as being one of Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) most recalcitrant civil penalty violators, was slapped in a criminal case with two years probation and a $25 fine. Alger Jent of Kite, Ky., owes MSHA $746,210 in unpaid civil penalty assessments plus...

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Temporary Restraining Order Sought to Stop Upper Big Branch Closed-Door Interviews

Posted May 10, 2010 | 15:38:33 (EST)

The United Mine Workers and two families who lost family members in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster have asked the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston for a temporary restraining order to stop MSHA's witness interviews.

"We sincerely wish we did not have...

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Mine Where Roof Fell Had 25 Falling Incidents In Last Year

Posted April 29, 2010 | 15:20:08 (EST)

As of 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, two miners remain trapped in a major roof fall at Dotiki Mine in Hopkins County, Ky., operated by Webster County Coal, LLC and owned by Alliance Resource Partners, LP.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration was informed of the accident at 10:40 p.m. (Central)...

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Massey and Mine Safety and Health Administration Missed Many Opportunities to Avert Crisis

Posted April 28, 2010 | 10:10:12 (EST)

Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes. ~ Jeff Waizkin

While investigators are still trying to get into the Upper Big Branch Mine where an explosion killed 29 miners on April 5, Mine Safety and Health News has been busy looking...

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Senate HELP Committee Looks To Reinforce Mine Safety Law...Again

Posted April 27, 2010 | 23:45:29 (EST)

New enforcement tools for MSHA, greater use of existing enforcement tools, and eliminating ways for mine operators to "game the system" were among the options discussed at a hearing this afternoon before the full Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee.

The first Congressional panel to examine mine...

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The Miners Are Still Nameless

Posted April 14, 2010 | 14:19:49 (EST)

The Mine Safety and Health Administration claims that eight days after a disaster that claimed the lives of 29 miners, it still does not have an official list of the miners who died in the explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

Under the mining laws,...

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Is Massey's Ruby Engine Mine Even More Unsafe Than Upper Big Branch?

Posted April 14, 2010 | 08:58:13 (EST)

The Mine Safety and Health Administration's Coal Division head Kevin Stricklin had been scheduled to meet with Massey Energy officials before the April 5 mine disaster at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine. But the meeting was not scheduled until April 8th, Mine Safety and Health News has confirmed with MSHA.

...
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How Do We Hold a Corporation Responsible?

Posted April 13, 2010 | 15:23:02 (EST)

Just two weeks ago, over 300 people gathered at the U.S. Dept. of Labor in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, and a record low number of fatalities in the U.S. mining industry.

Among the celebrants were Labor Secretary Hilda Solis,...

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