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Commission Rejects Paltry Fine for Fatal Jim Walters Explosion

August 30, 2006

FAIRFAX, VA. - The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission today vacated the very low fines crafted last year by a federal administrative law judge (ALJ) for Jim Walters Resources in connection with a 2001 explosion at the company's #5 mine in Brookwood, Ala., that killed 13 miners.

"Although one cannot put a price tag on human life, the reduction of fines levied by the Mine Safety and Health Administration from $435,000 to $3,000 defied even the most basic elements of decency and common sense, and destroyed any pretext of a deterrent for perpetuating unsafe working conditions," said Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America. "Now that the Commission agrees with our position, we hope that the fines will be significantly increased."

In its remanding of the penalty assessments, the Commission directed the ALJ to provide a more detailed analysis of the reasoning behind the fine reductions "in light of the judge's findings that [JWR's violations were] serious and due to high negligence."

After the September 23, 2001, explosion trapped a miner under debris, 12 of his fellow workers were on their way to rescue him when a second explosion killed all 13 of them. Although MSHA issued citations and orders against JWR for violations ranging from roof control to mine dust levels to evacuation and fire drill procedures, the ALJ last November vacated all but two of those citations, modified or only partly affirmed those two and reduced the amount of fines to $3,000.

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