An Illinois coal mine operator is facing almost $1.2 million in fines after it failed to evacuate miners when a fire broke out underground.
M-Class Mining LLC is accused of continuing to operate its mine during the Aug. 13, 2021, fire without evacuating miners and for failing to notify the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) about the fire.
Anonymous complaint leads to investigation
On Aug. 14, 2021, MSHA learned of the unextinguished fire through an anonymous complaint and issued an order to withdraw all workers from the mine.
Investigators found that M-Class Mining allowed continued coal production and didn’t take immediate action to protect the safety and health of its miners. MSHA alleges that the mine operator failed to:
- follow its approved Mine Emergency Evacuation and Firefighting Program and evacuate the miners
- notify MSHA within 15 minutes of the fire’s start as the law requires, and
- fully comply with federal orders to withdraw miners from the mine.
Reckless disregard leads to ‘flagrant’ citations
M-Class Mining received 14 citations, including 10 related to its “reckless disregard for the miners’ safety and health.”
Two of those citations are considered flagrant, which allows MSHA to assess the highest penalty allowed by law. The flagrant citations are for:
- the operator not evacuating the mine when the fire was located, and
- allowing miners to work underground without being tracked by the mine tracking system.
This led to MSHA issuing a fine totaling $1,165,396.