A Kentucky mine operator illegally warned miners working underground about an impending federal inspection, according to a May 11 decision issued by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On April 20, 2012, KenAmerican Resources, operator of the Paradise No. 9 mine, gave underground miners advance notice that Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors were about to conduct an investigation, the court held.
During a regular, federally required inspection, the inspectors were monitoring a phone used to contact miners underground when they overheard someone in the mine ask the dispatcher on the surface if they “have company outside,” and the dispatcher responded in the affirmative.
MSHA issued a citation to KenAmerican for providing advance notice of an inspection, which is prohibited by federal law.
Facts clearly show violation occurred
KenAmerican appealed, arguing the law on advance notice doesn’t apply to mine operators and that it provided only advance notice that MSHA had arrived, not that an inspection was about to take place. The company also argued the citation was a violation of its free-speech rights.
In its decision, the court rejected all arguments and found the law plainly prohibits operators from providing advance notice. The case’s facts clearly showed the operator provided advance notice that MSHA inspectors were conducting an inspection, according to the court.