Regulators faulted in 2007 mine collapse

April 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration was partly to blame for the collapse of a Utah coal mine that left nine dead, the Labor Department said.

Before the collapse in August 2007, the federal agency approved a mining technique known as "retreat mining" in which pillars of coal supporting the roof are removed one by one, allowing the mine chamber to collapse, CNN News reported Tuesday.

"MSHA's actions and inactions" led the Labor Department to conclude the agency "lacked care and attention in fulfilling its responsibilities to protect miners," a report said.

Murray Energy, which owns the mine at Crandall Canyon, Utah, did not respond to the report, CNN News said, but Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Richard Stickler objected to the word "negligent."

He also said the mining company did not pressure the agency into approving the risky technique.

"As a regulatory agency, MSHA must be able to show that its decisions are not influenced by those it regulates," the report said.

But, investigators said an e-mail from the company, sent two days before the agency approved the technique, said, "I have a fire under my a-- to get this approved. I need your help."

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