A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that KenAmerican Resources violated the Mine Safety and Health Act more than a decade ago by giving underground miners advance notice that Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors were conducting an inspection.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on May 11 is the latest action in a long-standing litigation involving an incident on April 20, 2012, at the Paradise No. 9 coal mine in Muhlenberg County, Ky.
During a statutorily required inspection, inspectors were monitoring a phone used to contact miners underground when, as they prepared to descend, they overheard someone ask the dispatcher on the surface level if they “have company outside,” to which the dispatcher responded affirmatively.
MSHA inspectors then issued a citation to KenAmerican for providing advance notice of an inspection. The mine operator appealed arguing it had only provided advance notice that MSHA was “at the mine,” and that the citation violated its free-speech rights.
In its decision, the court rejected all arguments made to challenge the citation and held that the law plainly prohibits operators from providing advance notice. The court also found the case’s facts clearly show the mine’s operator provided advance notice that MSHA inspectors were conducting an inspection.