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MSHA says impact inspections lowering mine issues

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Impact coal mine inspections, the targeted full-force inspections in effect since the Upper Big Branch disaster, appear to be working, says a federal agency.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced today that federal inspectors issued 245 citations and 13 orders during the inspection of nine coal mines and six metal/nonmetal mines last in January.

"We believe that the impact inspection initiative has made mines safer," said Joseph A Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "According to a recent evaluation of mines targeted in this special enforcement program, there have clearly been improvements."

The impact inspections target mines that warrant extra attention such as through inspection history or through whistleblower action. From April 2010 through December 2012, total violations per one hundred inspection hours decreased 15 percent in coal mines and 13 percent in other mines. Major violations, called significant and substantial violations by the agency, fell 19 percent in coal mines.

Lost time injuries in coal mines decreased by 8 percent.

"However, as we have also said, some mines still don't get it, and we will not hesitate to use our enforcement tools when we identify those mines," Main said.

Three of the mines targeted were in West Virginia – Red Bone Mining Company's Crawdad No. 1 Mine, Maple Coal's Maple Eagle No. 1 and JJ&E Coal Company's Horse Creek Mine No. 2. Only one order was issued in West Virginia, to the Horse Creek Mine No. 2.

Sixteen serious and substantial citations were given to the three West Virginia mines.