Thursday, November 13, 2014
A joint investigative report by National Public Radio and the Mine and Safety News finds that thousands of mine operators regularly fail to pay imposed safety penalties. They looked at twenty years of data from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration and the US Department of Labor. Findings include:
- 2,700 mining company owners failed to pay nearly $70 million in delinquent penalties.
- The top nine delinquents owe more than $1 million each.
- Mines that don't pay their penalties are more dangerous than mines that do, with injury rates 50 percent higher.
- Delinquent mines reported close to 4,000 injuries in the years they failed to pay, including accidents that killed 25 workers and left 58 others with permanent disabilities.
- Delinquent mines continued to violate the law, with more than 130,000 violations, while they failed to pay mine safety fines.
These findings don’t include any delinquency less than 90 days old. Although delinquent mine operators “account for just 7 percent of the nation's coal, metals and mineral mining companies,” that subset “is more dangerous than the rest.” Enforcement is difficult, the report suggests, in part because coal mine regulation is a low priority for limited law enforcement resources, and because it’s often hard to connect the nominal mine operators to the people actually running the mines.