MSHA wields POV authority with latest screening

By |  February 16, 2024

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The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) conducted two pattern of violations (POV) screenings in 2023, marking the first time in the agency’s history that more than one POV screening was conducted in a single calendar year.

Twin State Mining, a coal producer in West Virginia, is the latest company to meet the initial criteria for the existence of a POV under section 104(e) of the Mine Act, according to MSHA. During the 12-month review period – from Nov. 1, 2022, through Oct. 31, 2023 – MSHA cited 87 S&S (significant and substantial) violations at Twin States Mining’s Mine No. 39.

The S&S rate per 100 inspection hours at Mine No. 39 was 9.11, according to MSHA. The national average rate for underground coal mines was 2.90.

Although the mine met the initial screening criteria, under the POV process, the mine was reviewed for mitigating circumstances, which can result in postponing or not issuing or a POV notice. MSHA determined postponement was warranted, pending the agency’s continued evaluation of Mine No. 39’s operations, and issued a postponement notice to Twin State Mining. MSHA says it will continue to monitor Mine No. 39 and has the discretion to rescind the postponement and issue a POV notice if it determines such action is needed to protect the safety and health of miners.

“The Biden-Harris administration has demonstrated that it will use its enforcement tools such as its POV authority and impact inspections to focus on chronic violators and protect miners’ safety and health,” says Chris Williamson, assistant secretary at MSHA. “Following a year when the mining industry experienced a troubling increase in fatalities, MSHA continues to use all measures available to prevent fatal and serious accidents and hold low-road operators accountable.”

As MSHA describes, the POV screening process examines all of the nation’s mines and identifies ones with a high number of S&S violations and other safety and health compliance problems. According to MSHA, an S&S violation is one that could contribute in a significant and substantial way to the cause and effect of a safety or health hazard.

Under the Mine Act, MSHA identifies mines exhibiting a pattern of S&S violations, and the agency is authorized to issue a POV notice – one of the agency’s toughest enforcement actions – to mine operators. If a mine receives notice of a POV and subsequently commits additional S&S violations, MSHA is authorized to withdraw miners from the affected area except those necessary to correct the violation.

MSHA’s two most recent POV issuances remain in effect. MSHA issued a POV notice last July to Atalco Gramercy, the operator of Gramercy Operation in Gramercy, Louisiana, after identifying a pattern of S&S violations related to caustic spills and leaks.

In December 2022, MSHA issued a POV notice to Morton Salt, operator of the Weeks Island Mine & Mill in New Iberia, Louisiana, after identifying a pattern of S&S violations related to roof and rib hazards.

Related: Detailing MSHA’s recent mobile equipment rule

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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