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Keeping West Virginia Coal Mines Safe



November 15, 2023 - West Virginians are as familiar with the dangers of mining. For us, the reality is if mining inspectors don’t do their jobs, it can be a matter of life and death.

Yet, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Mine Safety and Health Administration slacked off even more than usual during the pandemic.

“MSHA did not complete an estimated 1,589 mandatory mine inspections during Fiscal Year 2018 through Fiscal Year 2021 although it reported a nearly 100% completion rate,” the audit says.

The audit did not go easy on MSHA, noting “errors in accounting for the types of activities performed. This occurred because MSHA had not effectively improved the design or execution of its internal control system since a 2011 OIG audit found similar internal control issues with the mandatory inspections program.”

Further, “Weaknesses in MSHA’s ability to accurately determine a mine’s status increased the risk of MSHA not completing mandatory inspections. … Breakdowns in MSHA’s internal control system created these weaknesses, and increased the risk of MSHA incorrectly calculating inspections required and not completing inspections,” the audit says.

That’s a long way to say MSHA has not cared nearly as much about mines safety as it says it does. The bottom line, then?

“This led to missed opportunities to protect miners by identifying hazards to miners and requiring corrections,” the audit reports.

OIG said it made 11 recommendations for improvement at MSHA.

Federal officials had better be looking over the shoulders of those at MSHA who clearly need the prodding to do their jobs.