Oversight agency inspects 57 coal mines over weekend

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration targeted 57 coal mines that have histories of repeated methane and dust control problems for inspections over the weekend. Fourteen are in Kentucky.

Two of the Kentucky mines are owned by Massey Energy Co., the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia where 29 miners died as a result of an explosion April 5. The Upper Big Branch mine fit MSHA's criteria for the inspection blitz, but the mine was not inspected because of the disaster, MSHA officials said.

The agency said results of the inspections would be released later. President Barack Obama requested stepped-up inspections of underground mines during meetings with MSHA and Department of Labor officials last week.

The inspections are ongoing, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Wednesday. A similar blitz was done in February 2009 to look for dust-control problems.

"Certainly we want to avoid disasters before they happen," Louviere said. "But we feel that such initiatives like the one launched last weekend can also be an effective means of enforcement."

As of last week, one of the Massey properties targeted, Freedom Energy Mine No. 1 in Pike County, had been issued 222 citations since April 5, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of MSHA data.

Here is a list of the 14 Kentucky mines :

Bell County: Red Bird Coal Butcher Branch mine, owned by Donnie Wagers and Onzie Sizemore; and Left Fork Mining Straight Creek No. 1 Mine, owned by Ben Bennett.

Breathitt County: ICG Hazard Flint Ridge Mine No. 2, owned by International Coal Group

Harlan County: D&C Mining Corp. mine, owned by Horace Garrison Hill; Liggett Mining's Liggett No. 5, owned by James C. Justice II; Cawood Enterprises Mine No. 1, owned by Jimmy D. Robbins; Conshor Mining Mine No. 1, owned by James H. Hurley; and Manalpan Mining Co. RB No. 12, owned by Ben Bennett.

Perry County: Blue Diamond Coal No. 77, owned by James River Coal.

Pike County: Freedom Energy Mine No. 1 and Rockhouse Energy Mine No. 1, both owned by Massey Energy Co.; CAM Mining Mine No. 28, owned by Wexford Capital; and Excel Mining Mine No. 3, owned by Alliance Resource Partners

Union County: Highland 9 Mine, owned by Patriot Coal Corp.

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