07/20/2010 12:09 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Government Gets Tough on Mine Safety Violators

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 an additional $30,723 in interest and administrative costs associated with the delinquent debt. He never paid one penalty when he owed CSA Mining No. 2 Mine in Letcher County, Ky. (MSHA ID #1518987).

His penalties included a $147,000 penalty for a flagrant violation for not developing a roof control plan, as well as six $70,000 maximum non-flagrant penalties for electrical violations and not maintaining equipment.

He never paid one penalty while operating the mine. He had eight miners working underground and two on the surface, according to MSHA's employment reports.

MSHA said it had referred CSA's debt to Treasury for collection, but Treasury was unsuccessful in collecting. Treasury sent the debt back to MSHA in December 2009 to write off after CSA went out of business.

Jent wasn't charged with not paying the penalties, but with four criminal counts of not following a roof control plan.

According to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office, he was found guilty of one count of not properly torquing about 1/3 of the roof bolts. According to the probation papers, Jent will not be allowed to own or operate an underground coal mine, or supervise miners for his two years of probation. However, despite 22 outstanding electrical violations, three of which were 104(d)(2) orders, one 104(d)(1), and 22 S&S, with outstanding penalties for electrical violations of $149,911, his probation "does not prohibit the defendant from acting as an instructor teaching miners and potential miners about electrical equipment and safety."

In a press release on Jent's sentence, MSHA head Joe Main said "Those who flout the nation's mine safety and health laws and endanger miners lives will be held accountable for their crimes."

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