CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal mine inspectors issued more than 200 orders temporarily idling mines until they fixed serious safety problems uncovered during a five-month inspection blitz, the Mine Safety and Health Administration said Monday.
Inspectors issued 2,660 citations during inspections at 111 mines across the country from April through August, the agency said. Nearly half -- 45 percent -- were for more serious violations that inspectors believed could lead to serious injury or death.
The agency started the blitz after 29 miners died and two more suffered serious injuries in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The blast at the Massey Energy Co. mine was the worst U.S. coal industry disaster in 40 years and is the target of civil and criminal investigations.
"Clearly, there are still too many mine operators who have not learned the lessons of Upper Big Branch and continue to put miners' lives at risk," MSHA director Joe Main said in a statement. "They don't yet understand the value of safety in our nation's mines. That's got to change. Our mission is to protect miners, and protect them we must."
MSHA said it targeted mines with a record of safety problems or conditions such as high methane levels.