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Four mines receive MSHA pattern of violations notice

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Four U.S. coal mines have received letters placing them on notice about a potential pattern of violations status, including two in West Virginia.

The letters let mine operators know they are approaching a pattern of violating mandatory health and safety standards of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. According to MSHA, this is the third PPOV screening since the current procedures and criteria were created in September 2010.

The four mines that received warning letters are Ten-Mile Coal Co. Inc.'s No. 4 Mine in Harrison County, W.Va.; Argus Energy WV LLC's Deep Mine No. 8 in Wayne County, W.Va. Pike Floyd Mining Inc.'s No. 3 Mine in Pike County, Ky.; and Noranda Alumina LLC's Gramercy Facility in St. James County, La.

"The revised potential pattern of violations program, along with other enforcement actions such as impact inspections, is making mines safer," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The number of chronic violators meeting improved screening criteria has substantially dropped since we began implementing these criteria in 2010."

Two non-producing mines, one in Kentucky and the other in Idaho, will be subject to PPV procedures if they become active again. The release states that 14 other mines are under consideration of the pattern of violations program while MSHA verify self-reported injury information to ensure accuracy.

"MSHA implemented improved screening criteria in 2010 to better identify mines that have been subject to closure orders, including for serious issues such as failing to correct violations cited by MSHA, unwarrantable failures to comply with health or safety standards, failure to provide miners with required training and imminent dangers in the mine," an MSHA release states. "The criteria better identify mines where these tools have been used but have not been sufficient to improve compliance."

In April 2011, MSHA first used the pattern of violations enforcement actions to shut down two coal mines, including one at the New West Virginia Mining Co.'s Apache Mine in McDowell County.