SEC filings provide more mine safety information

September 7, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Boy, these new mine safety disclosures that coal companies must file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could turn out to be pretty interesting — helpful to investors, the public and to the media.

Only Friday Massey Energy issued another one, reporting among other things:

On September 2, 2010, Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of the Company and the operator of the Company’s Upper Big Branch Mine, received an imminent danger order under section 107(a) of the Mine Act. Due to the tragic accident that occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5, 2010, the mine is under MSHA’s control as various teams investigate the cause of the accident. The order stated that a travel way in a section of Upper Big Branch, that is not a part of the “accident investigating scene” and is not otherwise in use but is subject to periodic inspections, was not being maintained adequately for examinations, and that the following conditions collectively constituted an imminent danger: adverse roof and rib conditions and water accumulations that could expose mine examiners to the potential hazard of falling material and potential stumbling hazards and otherwise could impede travel. While the Company does not agree with the order, the Company has submitted a plan to MSHA that addresses the issue which MSHA has approved. The Company is in the process of implementing the approved plan after the completion of which the order will be terminated. The Company is considering whether to contest the order. No injuries resulted from the conditions described in the order.

This comes after the initial quarterly filings that showed Massey had more enforcement actions and fines than other publicly traded mine operators and after another special filing that revealed a major explosives violation at Upper Big Branch after the disaster.

Of course, this new system isn’t perfect …   For example, it doesn’t appear to me that companies are actually filing — and thus making public — copies of the actual enforcement orders. So, company executives are able to put their own spin on events. And it takes the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration so long to respond to requests for copies of such documents that the media coverage is over and done with before we can really find out what MSHA inspectors found that prompted these orders.

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