Fines levied against Helena mine

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, April 2, 2009

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has assessed $280,000 in fines against Shelby Mining Co. for a methane ignition last October that left two miners severely burned.

The incident happened Oct. 2, 2008 at Coke Mine No. 1 in Helena.

“The stated obligation of every mine operator is to seek out and eliminate safety and health hazards that may adversely affect its employees,” said Michael Davis, MSHA deputy assistant secretary for operations. “In this instance, the foreman failed to do that, and a serious yet avoidable accident occurred.”

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Public Affairs Director Diana Petterson said the company has until April 26 to pay the fine or file a hearing request. If the company chooses to file for a hearing, payment on the fines isn’t due until after a decision is made.

Calls to the mining company for comment were unreturned.

The mine has a history of methane ignitions, with eight being reported since October 2006. On Oct. 25, 2006, two miners were also burned severely as a result of a methane ignition.