Floyd County mine among first to be designated under new safety-violation rules

An underground coal mine in Floyd County is among the first in the nation to be designated as having a pattern of safety violations under new rules, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday.

The Tram Energy LLC Mine No. 1 and two mines in West Virginia are the first mines put on notice of a pattern of violations since new rules took effect in March, according to a news release.

The rules made it easier for MSHA to place a mine on pattern of violation (POV) status, which brings tougher sanctions.

Federal law allows MSHA to place a mine on POV status for demonstrating a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of "significant and substantial" violations — those reasonably likely to cause a serious injury, illness or death.

However, the process was once more cumbersome, and the agency had not placed a mine under POV status until the current administration — 33 years after the mine-safety law was passed.

Regulators cited 120 alleged significant and substantial violations at Tram Energy during the review period. MSHA issued 40 orders closing all or parts of the mine for alleged unsafe conditions — the most of any mine in the country, MSHA said.

Tram has racked up about $170,000 in penalties since last year and has paid almost none, according to a news release.

One of the West Virginia mines put on POV status, Brody Mining's Brody Mine No. 1, failed to report a number of injuries to miners as required; at the other, Pocahontas Coal Company's Affinity Mine, two miners died during the review period, MSHA said.