(02/13/2006)
More than $11 million in fines against coal mine operators are unpaid, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Additionally, besides not paying fines, mining companies are often given reduced fines.

After sixteen miners died recently in WV and demands are being made for better safety, federal officials say they are going to start issuing lawsuits against coal companies to make them pay.

The MSHA recently filed suit against eastern Kentucky mine operator Stanley Osborne, who had accumulated more than $200,000 in fines.

West Virginia lawmakers have asked federal officials to look into the assessment and collection of fines.

Stephen Webber, a former head of MSHAs assessments office, says the process needs to change.

In the Osborne's case, the agency didn't ask for payment of old fines but asked the court to make him post a bond for payment of future fines.

Thomas Mascolino at the Labor Department says the goal of the lawsuit is to make other operators think twice about ignoring fines.


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