COTE BLANCHE, LA — In recent weeks, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors have issued at least 21 citations to North American Salt for its health and safety conditions at its Cote Blanche, La., mine. Conditions were so dangerous that the inspectors have temporarily shut down the mine while the company corrects the problems. Overall, the company has a long string of safety violations issued against it for conditions at the Cote Blanche mine.
The recent violations stem from MSHA’s quarterly inspection of the Cote Blanche mine. On July 31,MSHA inspectors gave the company citations for excessive scales they found in the 14- and 16-foot mine shafts and they shut both shafts down so they could be scaled. Scales are excess debris and when miners scale a mine, they remove the loose salt rocks so they do not fall down on top of miners to injure or kill them.
An inspection of the 8-foot mine shaft on Aug. 1 revealed excessive scales, leading MSHA inspectors to shut down that shaft. On Aug. 2, MSHA inspectors ordered the company to have the 14-foot mine shaft scaled by Aug. 5. MSHA inspectors approved the company’s use of the 8- and 14-foot shafts on Aug. 5. As of now, the 16-foot shaft remains closed.
“We believe these violations show that North American Salt and its parent company, Compass Minerals, are willingly putting their workers in harm’s way,” said USW District 13 Director Mickey Breaux. “They haven’t ensured the safety of their Cote Blanche mine by removing loose salt rock. It doesn’t take much to injure or kill a worker when you have loose debris.”
From January 2009 through Aug. 8, 2012, MSHA has cited North American Salt with more than 400 health and safety violations at the Cote Blanche mine, with 126 of these violations determined to be “significant and substantial.” The company currently is contesting 38 of these violations, 31 of which MSHA has deemed to be “significant and substantial.”
In addition, from March 9, 2009 through June 27, 2012 there were 54 accidents reported at the mine, some of which involved worker injuries.
“These violations and accidents show a pattern of disregard for health and safety by North American Salt and Compass Minerals,” Breaux said. “Our members who work in the Cote Blanche mine don’t deserve to get injured or die from this rogue company’s lack of concern for safety.”