Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | September 25, 2008

Lawyer Sanders says three Stillhouse Mining employees indicted for criminal violations of MSHA arising from shutting off mine ventilation fans for underground mine.

A surprise MSHA inspection at Stillhouse Mining Mine No. 1 in Cumberland on Dec. 3, 2006 resulted in the indictment of three men.  Ira Sergent, Johnny Osborne and Reggie Raleigh worked at the Stillhouse Mining No. 1 Mine in Harlan County. The safety violations came in December 2006, according to a federal indictment filed in London on September 24, 2008.

Each miner is charged with allowing the mine’s main fan to be shut off for about six hours while work continued. The second count charges each miner with making a ventilation change without cutting the power and moving workers out of the mine.  Each man faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.   

When a mine’s ventilation fans are turned off, methane gas can build up in the underground mines and explode.  The odorless, colorless gas is also toxic to mines.  Methane gas is naturally present in coal beds.  Methane seeping from coal beds has no odor to warn miners of its presence. 

Criminal cases for violations of MSHA are referred by the Department of Labor to the Criminal Division, or, in some cases, directly to the United States Attorneys. If the Criminal Division determines that a case referred to it warrants prosecution, the case will be referred to the appropriate United States Attorney.

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