Mine Safety & Health Administration


Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, (MSHA), v. North American Drillers, LLC, Docket Nos. LAKE 2008-2-R and LAKE 2008-98 (February 12, 2012)

The Secretary of the Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a citation to our client, a national drilling company. After completion of the discovery process and conducting depositions to determine the citation’s validity, the Secretary vacated the enforcement action and civil penalty. We filed a declaratory judgment action with an ALJ which was denied. We then appealed, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the mine operator’s argument that the Commission’s jurisdiction relating to a legal challenge, issued pursuant to Section 105(d) of the Mine Act, does not terminate upon the Secretary of Labor’s vacating of a citation and civil penalty.

Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, (MSHA) v. Banner Blue Coal Company, Docket Nos. VA 2011-367 and VA 2011-368 (March 12, 2010)

The Secretary of the Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued two citations pursuant to 30 C.F.R. Section 75.512 requiring electrical equipment to be frequently examined, tested, and properly maintained. The citations alleged that the locking mechanism on our client’s electrical power source was not functioning properly. An ALJ upheld the violation, but vacated the “significant and substantial” designations attached to the violations. Additionally, the ALJ vacated a third citation issued pursuant to 30 C.F.R. Section 75.503 requiring electrical face equipment to be maintained in permissible condition. The ALJ asserted that the citation lacked validity.

National Coal Company v. Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, (MSHA), Docket No. LAKE 2010-408-R (September 8, 2010)

The Secretary of the Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) alleged that smoke from client’s coal stock pile, demonstrated the existence of a fire which constituted an accident under the Mine Act. The Secretary issued a control order under Section 103(k) of the Mine Act. We argued before an administrative law judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission that MSHA had failed to establish the existence of a fire, and therefore an accident did not occur. At trial, the judge ordered MSHA to vacate the control order. The case has been appealed by the Secretary and the briefs and requested oral arguments have been filed in front of the Review Commission on behalf of our client.

Secretary of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) v. Oak Grove Resources, LLC. Docket No. SE 2007-194 (November 26, 2007)

This case involved, inter alia, a significant and substantial, high gravity and moderate negligence violation of 30 C.F.R. Section 75.604(b) issued by MSHA alleging that a permanent splice in the trailing cable on a shuttle car was not effectively insulated and sealed to exclude moisture.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held that the Secretary of Labor did not sustain her burden of proving the alleged violation was significant and substantial or of high gravity, and that the negligence should be reduced from moderate to low. The ALJ assessed a penalty of $250.00 for the violation.

Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) v. Marfork Coal Company, Inc., Docket Nos. WEVA 2006-788-R, WEVA 2006-789-R, WEVA 2006-790-R (September 27, 2006)

This case involved an appeal to the appellate level of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission of an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) decision to dismiss three notices of contests filed by the mine operator pursuant to Section 105(d) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act). The issue in the case was whether the mine operator had a right to file a notice of contest under Section 105(d) of the Mine Act if the operator was not seeking an immediate hearing.

The Commission concluded that the ALJ abused his discretion in dismissing the mine operator’s Section 105(d) notice of contest proceeding. The Commission held that the ALJ's decision contained a number of statements that were not supported by the record. The Commission further held that it must accommodate a mine operator’s presumptive right to contest citations and orders under Section 105(d) of the Mine Act, and that initiating discovery and settlement negotiations are valid reasons to bring and maintain a Section 105(d) contest proceeding. The Commission reversed the ALJ's dismissal of the Section 105(d) contest proceedings and reinstated the mine operator's notices of contest.

Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America, District 17, et al., 531 U.S. 57 (2000)

U.S. Supreme Court held that public policy considerations do not require courts to refuse to enforce an arbitration award ordering an employer to reinstate an employee truck driver even though he twice tested positive for drug use.  Worked with now-Chief Justice John Roberts, who was retained to do oral argument to the Supreme Court.

Resource Sales, Inc., Allied Resources, Inc., Cochise Coal Co., Inc. and SMCC, Inc. v. Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co.; Resource Sales, Inc., Allied Resources, Inc., Cochise Coal Co., Inc. and SMCC, Inc. v. Western Kentucky Energy

These companion cases concern disputes over two coal supply agreements. The coal producer declared force majeure and shut down one of its coal mines, thereby reducing (and ultimately stopping) all coal deliveries to our utility clients. Thereafter, our clients had to purchase coal at significantly higher prices than under the agreements, leading to approximately $50 million in damages our utility clients now seek to recoup. The cases seek a declaratory judgment as well as breach of contract claims.

Sale of Family-Owned Coal Company

When Pine Branch Coal Sales was presented with the opportunity to sell their operating assets, they turned to Dinsmore for counsel. A family-operated coal company, Pine Branch was approached by Blackhawk Mining, LLC about the potential transaction, which would allow Blackhawk to more than double its production. We worked with Pine Branch to facilitate the deal, including conducting due diligence analysis and preparing and drafting the appropriate documentation. We also assisted the client with the complex financial aspects of the deal, which included a component of seller financing and a multi party intercreditor arrangement with a consortium of lenders headed by Deutsche Bank. We then counseled the client through the closing and execution of the sale, which was completed efficiently and to the satisfaction of the client.

Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) v. Mid-America Mining

The U.S. issued a Section 105(c) citation to this Arkansas mining company, claiming that it fired its general manager after he has made formal complaints about the safety of the mine and its practices. This matter was settled on favorable terms to the client.

Decertification Defense

When a miner was facing decertification proceedings from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training, he turned to Dinsmore. Our client was accused of not properly locking and tagging a piece of equipment, which violates state law. As a result, the state of West Virginia sought permanent decertification of the miner. We conducted on-site research at the mine, interviewing witnesses and examining the company’s safety policies, procedures and records. We determined the alleged violation did not rise to the level of permanent decertification and entered into negotiations with the state of West Virginia. We reached a settlement favorable to our client, allowing him to avoid permanent decertification and return to work.

U.S. v. Coal Company

We represented the Defendant coal company in a federal suit seeking $20 million in penalties for alleged criminal violations of health and safety standards.  After a four week trial, the District Court imposed $300,000 in fines.  The U.S. appealed and the Sixth Circuit affirmed.