Fed Mine Safety Agency Riddled With Problems
'Miners' lives are in the crosshairs'
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2010 3:18 AM CDT
A security guard stands on the bridge leading to Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.   (AP Photo/Bob Bird)
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(Newser) – Untrained recruits perform mine inspections, the majority of veteran inspectors skip out on mandatory retraining, and a backlog of appeals is growing at the troubled federal mine safety agency. A government audit released just days before this week's deadly West Virginia mine explosion found lax enforcement rampant in the Mining Safety and Health Administration, the Washington Post reports.

The agency tried to tighten enforcement after 12 miners died in the 2006 Sago mine disaster, but the audit shows it still has a long way to go. The agency expanded its inspection force by 26% since the last tragedy, but the stepped-up inspections meant more appeals from mining companies who received citations. "Miners' lives are in the crosshairs," warned a congressman who faulted the companies for clogging the inspection process with complaints.