Statement of U. S. Attorney David B. Barlow on the Crandall Canyon case
On August 6, 2007, Utah and the nation awoke to the news that a catastrophic collapse had occurred at the Crandall Canyon mine and that six miners were still trapped inside.
Over the next several days, rescuers heroically worked around the clock to find their colleagues while the trapped miners’ families and the rest of us hoped and prayed for a miraculous outcome.
Unfortunately, after 10 days of slow and difficult work to reach the trapped miners, another massive coal outburst took the lives of three rescuers—Dale Black, Brandon Kimber, and Gary Jensen—and severely injured six more.
After the tragic loss of life during the rescue effort, the rescue was called off, and Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Jose Luis Hernandez, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips, and Manuel Sanchez remained entombed in the mine.
In response to these tragedies, the United States Senate conducted an investigation and, on March 6, 2008, made a referral to the United States Department of Justice to commence a criminal investigation.
Representative George Miller, then Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor in the United States House of Representatives, made a referral on April 29, 2008, to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.
Finally, on August 27, 2008, the Mine Safety and Health Administration formally made a referral to the Justice Department to commence a criminal investigation regarding several matters.
This office took each criminal referral very seriously and began its investigation by assigning three experienced prosecutors to become familiar with the language and complexities of mining and geomechanics so that they could review the several hundred thousand pages of documents that Congress’s and MSHA’s investigations had already produced.
Although these investigations provided a great deal of needed information, they were not criminal investigations.
Consequently, to make these determinations, this office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had to gather a great deal of additional evidence. In gathering and evaluating the evidence in order to prove whether there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act had been committed, our office not only considered all of the potential charges that Congress and MSHA referred to this Office, but we also considered many more theories of prosecution beyond those in the referrals.
After considering the evidence, the law, and the heavy burden of proof that we must carry in court, we have charged Genwal Resources, Inc., in a criminal Information filed earlier today, with willfully violating two mandatory health and safety standards.
Specifically, Count 1 charges Genwal with criminally failing to timely report to MSHA that a significant coal outburst occurred on March 10, 2007, that disrupted regular mining activity for more than one hour and caused the permanent withdrawal of miners from the area.
Count 2 charges Genwal with criminally mining in an area on August 3, 2007, that the MSHA-approved roof control plan expressly prohibited.
These are serious offenses that merit the maximum penalty. Genwal has decided to plead guilty to the Information and pay the maximum fine allowed under the law of $250,000.00 per count.
We recognize that nothing we can do will ever bring back the miners and rescuers who perished, restore the health of those who were injured during the rescue, or erase the nightmares that still haunt those who were first-hand witnesses to these tragedies. It is this office’s intent that these charges send the message to mining companies everywhere: obey the safety laws.
w We will now take your questions.