The Department of Labor’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report yesterday about the Utah Crandall Canyon mine, saying:

“MSHA was negligent in carrying out its responsibilities to protect the safety of miners.”

The investigation was carried out in response to a request from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and documented in an 80-page report entitled: “MSHA Could Not Show it Made the Right Decision in Approving the Roof Control Plan at Crandall Canyon Mine.”   The August 2007 underground mine disaster killed nine men, including Mr. Gary Jensen a federal mine inspector who worked out of MSHA’s Price, Utah office. 


An article by the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward profiles the IG’s report:

“Among other findings, the IG said that MSHA managers did not ensure that district offices enforced standard guidelines for reviewing and approving roof control plans.  Investigators found that none of MSHA’s 11 districts included all 20 of the agency’s administrative and quality controls in their roof-control-plan review procedures.  Also, the IG found that when MSHA reviewed the mine’s roof control plan, it did not consider input from its own inspectors, the agency’s expert technical support staff, or federal Bureau of Land Management officials who had inspected the Crandall Canyon Mine.  After the roof plan was approved, the IG found, MSHA inspectors did not make sure it was working or that miners were trained to implement it.”

“Monday’s report is the most strongly worded of the half-dozen studies critical of MSHA that the IG has published since 12 miners died in the January 2006 Sago Mine disaster.  Earlier this month, a scathing report from U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s committee called on the federal Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation of the deaths at Crandall Canyon.”

The IG said:

“MSHA could not show how it analyzed roof control plans, the criteria it measured the plans against, the rationale for approving the plans, that the plans were properly implemented, or that the plans continued to protect miners over time.”

“These deficiencies evidence MSHA’s serious and systematic lack of diligence in protecting miners, and we do not believe it is misleading to use the term ‘negligent.'”

“As a regulatory agency, MSHA must be able to show that its decisions are not influenced by those it regulates and that they are sound, based on rigorous, established and documented processes and criteria.”

MSHA’s accident investigation team continues its work and preparation of a report on the cause of the Crandall Canyon disaster.  The agency does not have any statutory deadline for completing fatality investigation reports or issuing citations and monetary penalties related to the disaster.  If past history is a guide, a complex investigation of this nature usually takes about one year.

Meanwhile, the special investigators appointed by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, retired MSHA employees Joe Pavlovich and Ernest Teaster, are conducting their own evaluation of MSHA’s handling of the mine rescue at Crandall Canyon.  One press account indicated this special project would take about six months from the October 2007 announcement date.