Two Kentucky mines cited after special inspections

Two Kentucky coal mines were among those targeted for special inspections in September, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Friday.

Inspectors issued seven citations or orders for alleged safety or health violations at the Kentucky Fuel Corp. Beech Creek surface mine in Pike County, which is controlled by James C. Justice II, and eight citations at Hopkins County Coal's Elk Creek underground mine in Hopkins County, which is controlled by Alliance Resource Partners LP, according to a news release.

MSHA began the so-called "impact" inspections after a blast killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch underground coal mine in West Virginia in April 2010.

The inspections target mines the MSHA believes merit increased oversight because of a history of violations or other concerns.

The two Kentucky mines faced far fewer citations than some others. At Solid Fuel Inc.'s underground Watson Branch mine just across the state line from Kentucky in Claiborne County, Tenn., federal inspectors issued 27 citations and orders.

The problems included buildups of loose coal, coal fines and coal dust, which created a risk of fire or explosion, MSHA said.

And at the Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. mine in Grant County, New Mexico, federal inspectors issued 38 citations and orders for alleged violations that included belt conveyors without proper guards and a wet floor in front of an electrical panel, which created a shock hazard.

MSHA has conducted 823 impact inspections since April 2010 and issued more than 14,300 citations and orders.