Mining Operation Fights MSHA’s Shut-Down Order with Jackson Kelly’s Help To Get Back To Business

  • CLIENT: Sierra Rock Products
  • CHALLENGE:  Sierra Rock was issued a citation from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and shut-down order for a conveyor belt which worked, but was not pleasant-looking. As a result, the mine could not operate.
  • SOLUTION: Jackson Kelly attorney Kristin White helped Sierra Rock fight the shut-down order by requesting a functionality test to see if the conveyor was in proper working order.
  • RESULTS: The conveyor belt passed multiple functionality tests. Although the conveyor’s cosmetic appearance was not as pleasing as a new conveyor, or as MSHA had wanted, operations resumed after MSHA had no choice but to accept the engineer’s conclusions.

THE STORY:

Founded in 1971 by the Hatler family, Sierra Rock Products, based in Jamestown, California, specializes in crushed stone for the construction industry as well as oversize boulders for erosion control.

Current owner Jim Hatler took over the business from his uncles in 1989 and continues to operate it as a family business to this day.

In the 1980’s, Sierra Rock suffered an unfortunate fatality on-site, triggering their first encounter with MSHA. This was the first time the mine site had received a visit from MSHA, and it would not be the last.

THE CHALLENGE:

Per the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, Sierra Rock Products and all other surface mining sites are visited twice a year to ensure safety on every site. In 2010, Jim was put in touch with Jackson Kelly attorney Kristin White to have her assist with a couple of shut-down citations the company received.

During a later inspection, another citation and shut-down order were received regarding one of the main conveyor belts and its safety. MSHA was not only closing down the mine, but also wanted Sierra Rock to replace the old conveyor entirely with a new conveyor. While a new conveyor would solve the problem, the mine could not afford it and should not be forced to replace what is not broken.

Luckily, Jim had the help of Kristin to get his business back up and running. They hired a third-party California-certified structural engineer to inspect and certify that the conveyor was in working condition. This engineer also challenged the MSHA engineer to personally inspect the mine’s conveyor belt for safety instead of relying solely on photographs.

“MSHA can’t force you to replace equipment or change it just because it is displeasing to the eye,” states White.

THE SOLUTION:

Multiple functionality tests were performed on the conveyor belt, and it passed all of them. The mine was back up and running, and customers were once again hauling rock off the property. The citations ultimately were terminated.

“Kristin is valuable because she’s a straight shooter,” said Hatler. “No one can speed up the government’s process, but Kristin tells a business owner when to fight and how hard so their operations continue with the least impact on the bottom line.”

Kristin says she is in the business of balancing interactions between mines and the government. “MSHA wants to keep operators safe, but that doesn’t mean the government can force an owner to replace something that works safely,” said White. ““Balancing the two is important for all mine sites.”

“It is important to note that I have never felt Kristin and the Jackson Kelly team took on litigation on my behalf for money, but rather to help me,” said Hatler. “This has been a key in my continued use of the firm.”

MaisedenS-web Kristin R.B. White

(O): (303) 390-0006
(F): (303) 390-0177
(C): (303) 526-8559
(E): kwhite@jacksonkelly.com

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