The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed nearly $1.2 million in civil penalties to M-Class Mining LLC, which operates the Sugar Camp mine near Macedonia, Illinois. MSHA cited the operator for continuing to operate the mine without evacuating miners with a fire underground and failing to notify MSHA of the fire. The fire broke out on a longwall section on August 13, 2021.

Late on the morning of August 14, 2021, after learning of the un-extinguished fire through an anonymous complaint, MSHA issued an order to withdraw all miners from the mine and began an accident investigation. The investigation found that the operator allowed continued coal production and did not take immediate actions to protect the safety and health of miners.

Specifically, MSHA inspectors determined M-Class Mining LLC failed to follow the approved Mine Emergency Evacuation and Firefighting Program and evacuate the miners; did not notify MSHA within 15 minutes of the fire’s start as the law requires; and failed to fully comply with federal orders to withdraw miners from the mine.

MSHA issued 14 citations to the M-Class mine, including 10 related to the operator’s reckless disregard for the miners’ safety and health. Two of the 10 proposed citations are flagrant: for the operator not evacuating the mine when the fire was located, and for allowing miners to work underground without being tracked by the mine tracking system.