Deal Trims Fine in Fatal 2007 Maryland Mine Collapse

May 20, 2009

Federal regulators have agreed to reduce to $100,000 from $180,000 the fine levied against a western Maryland coal company for a 2007 accident that killed two miners, the firm’s lawyer said.

The settlement agreement between the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Tri-Star Mining Inc., of Barton, was pending before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency that handles appeals of MSHA decisions, said Jean Ellen, chief of the commission’s docket office.

The deal follows 20 months of legal filings and negotiations between MSHA and Tri-Star over the appropriate penalty for violations that led to the deaths of Dale F. Jones, 51, of Lonaconing, and Michael R. Wilt, 38, of Frostburg on April 17, 2007. They were buried beneath thousands of tons of rocks and dirt when the hillside they were surface mining, known as the highwall, collapsed near Barton, about 150 miles west of Baltimore.

Tri-Star attorney Adele L. Abrams of Beltsville said the agreement includes a provision barring use of the settlement findings in other court proceedings, such as lawsuits brought by the miners’ families.

MSHA’s Web site,, reflects the proposed settlement. The fines for three separate violations, originally assessed in August 2007 at $60,000 each, have been reduced to $40,000 for two violations relating to highwall hazards and $20,000 for violating a daily inspection rule.

An MSHA spokeswoman didn’t immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

Family members of the miners weren’t immediately available by telephone.

Tri-Star Mining is owned by George R. Beener, of Rockwood, Pa.

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