Big Mountain 16 Mine

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Big Mountain No 16 is an underground coal mining operation in Boone County, West Virginia, operated by Pine Ridge Coal Company and owned by Patriot Coal.

In early December 2011, Big Mountain 16 Mine, along with 7 other mines in the United States, was put on notice by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for having a pattern of violations. As a result, the mine and will face more scrutiny in the future from MSHA.[1]

On February 2, 2012, Patriot said it was idling the Big Mountain mining complex, citing low demand. The company had just posted its fourth straight quarterly loss, and forecast lower sales volumes for the year.[2]

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Mine Data

  • MSHA ID: 4607908
  • Operator: Pine Ridge Coal Company LLC
  • Controller: Patriot Coal Corporation
  • Union: UMWA
  • County: Boone
  • State: WV
  • Latitude: 38.01
  • Longitude: -81.64
  • 2007 Production (short tons): 995,212
  • Coal Type: Bituminous
  • Mining Method: Underground
  • Mine Status: Active
  • Average No. of Employees: 156

Safety Violation

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced its order charging Pine Ridge Coal Co. with committing an "unwarrantable failure" to comply with the law was upheld by Administrative Law Judge Thomas McCarthy in May 2011. The order stemmed from the operator’s violation of 30 C.F.R. § 50.10, which requires mine operators to notify MSHA of any reportable roof falls without delay once the operator knows or should know that a reportable accident has occurred.

According to MSHA, Pine Ridge waited four days to notify MSHA of the roof collapse that took place at the Big Mountain No. 16 mine, and notified MSHA only after the fall was discovered by an MSHA inspector and the violation cited. McCarthy found the operator’s delay was unreasonable and resulted from reckless disregard for its obligations under the Mine Act. The judge, according to MSHA, found that Pine Ridge did not have an objective good faith belief that the roof fall was not reportable, particularly given that the accident required the operator to abandon the mine entry altogether and to block off access to prevent travel through that section of the mine. The judge also held that the roof fall had impaired ventilation and had impeded passage in the mine. The judge tripled the penalty proposed by MSHA, requiring the operator to pay $6,000 for the violations.[3]

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