Owner: Sago Mine Acted on Safety Concerns

Ben Hatfield, the owner of the Sago Mine, said on Wednesday that the company had spent heavily on safety improvements in the months before the explosion that led to the deaths of the 12 miners. Hatfield said that his company rebuilt two miles of primary escapeway, upgraded the mine’s rail transportation system and implemented employee safety training that “exceeded legal requirements.” In the last six months of 2005, there was a 60% reduction in lost-time injuries at the mine.

On Tuesday, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration released documents showing that 17 of the 208 alleged safety violations at the mine in 2005 were for serious problems, including the accumulation of “combustible materials” such as loose coal and coal dust. Hatfield says that his company has “heard nothing in the course of all this debate about the safety violations that even remotely connects” with any possible cause of the explosion.

The Sago mine should be sufficiently vented of toxic gases in four to seven days, allowing investigators to enter for the first time since the disaster.

Meanwhile, Randal McCloy Jr. remains in critical but stable . He still has a fever but doctors aren’t too concerned about it. Neurologist say that McCloy has lots of brain activity, but there haven’t been many changes in his condition. On a related note, the FBI issued a statement today saying that an e-mail seeking financial aid for Randy McCloy Jr. is a fraud. The letter will claim to be authored by a physician at the hospital where McCloy is receiving attention, gives his condition and outlines the financial assistance that he’ll need for a full recovery. The FBI is trying to find the source of the fraud.

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