Judge increases fine against Montevallo mining company

Published 1:55 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

A federal judge recently raised the amount of fines levied against a Montevallo mining operation after the mine was found guilty of safety violations.

A Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission judge increased penalties against the Helena-based Shelby Mining Company from $7,684 to $10,000 more than two years after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a pair of charges against the mining company.

According to a Mine Safety and Health Administration press release, the Shelby Mining Company failed to install ventilation curtains to sweep methane gas from the company’s coke mine near Montevallo.

The administration also levied a pre-shift violation charge against the company for the “operator’s failure to detect and correct the lack of ventilation curtains at the mine, which has closed since the charges were brought.

“Coke mine No. 1, which has since closed, was an extremely gassy mine liberating more than 7 million cubic feet of highly explosive methane gas every 24 hours,” read the release. “Proper ventilation in such a gassy mine is an important component for mine safety.”

Miners had been injured by methane ignitions in the Montevallo mine before the citations were issued against the company, which garnered a $280,000 fine against the Shelby Mining Company in 2009, according to the Mine Safety and Heath Administration.

“Before the inspector issued the citation and order in dispute, the mine had experienced six previous methane ignitions, one of which resulted in serious burns to two miners,” said Joseph Main, the Mine Safety and Heath Administration’s assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

“Those ignitions should have raised sufficient concern for the mine operator to take the necessary steps to protect its miners,” he added.

An employee at Shelby Mining in Montevallo declined to comment on the matter.