Senator Calls for Criminal Investigation Into Dangerous Mine

The owner of a Utah mine where nine people died ignored hazardous conditions and should be criminally investigated by the Justice Department, a Senate report concludes.

Murray Energy, the owner of Crandall Canyon Mine, "disregarded dangerous conditions at the mine, failed to tell federal regulators about these dangers, conducted unauthorized mining and -- as a result -- exposed its miners to serious risks," according to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee that released the report.

Kennedy says he wants a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and also implicates the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in last August's Utah mine disaster.

"MSHA also unconscionably failed to protect miners by hastily rubber-stamping [Murray Energy's] plan," Sen. Kennedy said.

The report states that "MSHA entered into an illegal agreement with Murray Energy" and that "MSHA must be held accountable for their failures of diligence, care and oversight."

The report suggests that the secretary of labor should refer the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

A statement from Utah American Energy, Inc., the subsidiary of Murray Energy that operated the mine, said the congressional report is "politically motivated, irresponsible and unjustified" and that "our company and our employees have always been totally committed to the safety of our employees."

MSHA'S spokesperson released a similar statement, "Until the MSHA Accident Report and the DOL Independent Internal Review are concluded, any speculation by Senator Kennedy's staff is premature and inappropriate."

Sen. Kennedy was adamant about the need for mine safety reform, "This is a clear case of callous disregard for the law and for safety standards, and hardworking miners lost their lives," the senator said. "I am committed to working on a bill that would prevent other such disasters from happening."

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