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MSHA News Release: [02/02/2009]
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: 202-693-9423
Release Number 09-120-ATL


U.S. Labor Department's MSHA files lawsuit against
Kentucky mine operator to collect civil penalties
Agency seeking more than $500,000 in unpaid fines


ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced that it has brought a lawsuit against Kentucky Darby LLC for non-payment of civil penalties for violations issued to Darby Mine #1 following the 2006 explosion that killed five miners.

In September 2008, Kentucky Darby LLC agreed to drop its challenge of six contributory safety and health violations that MSHA assessed at $342,000. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission approved that request, and the company was required to pay the penalty in full by Oct. 19, 2008. Subsequently, Kentucky Darby LLC dropped its challenge to other violations that were not directly related to the 2006 explosion and agreed to pay additional penalties.

"Kentucky Darby LLC had an opportunity to make good on its agreement to pay its penalty, and it failed to do so," said Michael A. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Consequently, the company now faces even higher fines."

According to the suit, Kentucky Darby LLC must pay $505,012, which includes unpaid civil penalties that contributed to the fatalities, and additional penalties issued to the company, as well as interest and administrative fees. The company has 20 days after the complaint and summons are served to respond to the suit.

The Darby Mine #1 in Harlan County, Ky., exploded on May 20, 2006. MSHA's accident investigation determined that the blast occurred when a mine foreman cut a metal roof strap extending through seals with an acetylene torch, igniting explosive levels of methane that accumulated behind the sealed area. Two miners located near the seals died immediately, and three miners trying to evacuate the mine after the explosion died from carbon monoxide poisoning. One other miner was injured but was rescued while escaping from the mine.

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