Montana coal mine fined $1M for violating safety regulations

Feb 1, 2022, 9:54 AM | Updated: 10:24 am

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A central Montana coal mine must pay a $1 million fine for violating environmental and employee safety regulations by failing to report worker injuries and improperly disposing of mine waste, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Montana said.

Signal Peak Energy, through a representative, pleaded guilty last October to four counts of willful violation of health and safety standards at its underground coal mine near Roundup.

The fine was included in the plea agreement and the mine was also placed on three years of probation during Monday’s sentencing before U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Cavan in Billings.

Federal prosecutors said in 2013 and 2015, managers of the mine improperly disposed of mine waste called slurry by pumping it into abandoned sections of the mine. And twice in 2018, mine managers tried to cover up injuries that occurred at the mine by encouraging employees to report they had been hurt at home, the prosecutors said.

Mines are required to report employee injuries to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The company’s vice president of underground operations gave $2,000 in cash to an employee whose finger was crushed at work and had to be amputated, prosecutors said. A miner who suffered a severe laceration on his head caused by falling rock had the days he was unable to work charged against his vacation time, court records said.

“This case holds Signal Peak Mine accountable for its utter disregard for environmental and worker health and safety standards,” U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a statement. “Mine owners provided little in the way of meaningful oversight of mine operations as long as the mine’s managers could meet reported safety and production goals.

Johnson added: “That lax oversight fostered a climate of fraud, which today cost the mine $1 million in fines.”

At the time the plea agreement was reached, the company said a small group of Signal Peak employees had broken the law without the company’s knowledge and that the employees involved no longer worked for the mine.

The mine’s human resources director, Phil Stansell, did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment.

The prosecution of the mine was part of a broad corruption investigation into mine management and operations that led to convictions of former mine officials and associates for embezzlement, tax evasion, bank fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and firearms violations, officials said.

Larry Wayne Price Jr., the company’s former vice president of surface operations, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2020 for defrauding companies of $20 million.

Zachary Ruble, a former surface mine manager, was sentenced to probation for conspiring to defraud Signal Peak Energy of $2.3 million, federal prosecutors said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Biden to require more gun dealers to run background checks....

Associated Press

Biden administration will require thousands more gun dealers to run background checks on buyers

New Biden rule to require thousands more firearms dealers across the United States will have to run background checks on buyers.

16 hours ago

Instagram blurring out nudity with new app tools....

Associated Press

Instagram blurring nudity in messages to protect teens from sexual extortion

Instagram says it’s deploying new tools to protect young people and combat sexual extortion by blurring nudity.

17 hours ago

Abortion advocates protest in Washington, D.C....

Associated Press

Abortion services expected to ramp up in nearby states after Arizona decision

Doctors and clinic leaders said there'll be a scramble across the Southwest for abortion care due to Tuesday's decision in Arizona.

18 hours ago

FILE - Cruise AV, General Motor's autonomous electric Bolt EV, is seen on Jan. 16, 2019, in Detroit...

Associated Press

Cruise to restart driverless operation for data collection in Phoenix

Cruise said Tuesday that the resumption of human-driven vehicles to create maps and gather road information will begin in Phoenix.

3 days ago

George Alan Kelly enters court for his preliminary hearing in Nogales Justice Court in Nogales, Ari...

Associated Press

Jurors to visit property where Arizona rancher killed migrant

Jurors in the case of an Arizona rancher charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property will visit the ranch near the border.

4 days ago

Demonstrators gather outside federal court buildings in New Orleans on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, to...

Associated Press

Texas asks court to decide if the state’s migrant arrest law went too far

The Justice Department argued Wednesday that the Texas migrant arrest law is trying to usurp the federal government’s authority.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Montana coal mine fined $1M for violating safety regulations