Following a scathing report by two media organizations into unpaid mine safety fines, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced plans to audit the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s handling of delinquent penalties.
The 2014 report by NPR and Mine Safety and Health News motivated members of Congress and mine safety experts to urge the Labor Department to investigate what U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia called “a festering problem” of failed enforcement. More than 2,700 mine operators have skirted paying over $70 million in long overdue fines — some going back decades — while continuing to put miners at risk of injury or death, the news organizations’ report found. Workers at delinquent mines were also found to be 50 percent more likely to be injured on the job.
The audit will target MSHA’s process for assessing and collecting civil penalties, but Labor Department officials say the scope and ultimate objectives are still being determined.