Senate Committee Calls for Justice Department Investigation Into 2007 Utah Mine Collapse

The Justice Department should investigate the company in charge of a Utah mine where six miners died in a roof collapse, a Senate committee report said Thursday.

"Murray Energy's actions must be fully investigated and those who broke the law must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said a report issued by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The report, which was released by committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called for the Labor Department to refer the case to the Justice Department for prosecution. However, a Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesman said the official investigation of the accident was still ongoing.

"Until the MSHA Accident Report and the DOL internal review are concluded, speculation by Senator Kennedy's staff is inappropriate," MSHA spokesman Matthew Faraci said.

Three of the committee's GOP senators also said no action should be taken until the Labor Department and the MSHA investigations are finished.

"Mine safety is too important an issue to risk misunderstandings about highly technical data prepared by non-experts," said GOP Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

The report by the HELP committee said Murray Energy disregarded dangerous mining conditions and conducted unauthorized mining activity that left workers exposed to serious risks. The report also said the company failed to tell federal inspectors about the dangers.

"This is a clear case of callous disregard for the law and for safety standards, and hardworking miners lost their lives," Kennedy said. "This deserves a full criminal investigation by the Department of Justice."

Lawmakers have been investigating what happened at Crandall Canyon last Aug. 6, when six miners were trapped 1,800 feet below the surface of the canyon. It was never learned if the miners survived the initial cave-in, and their bodies have yet to be recovered. Three others were killed as rescuers tried to tunnel toward the trapped miners.

"The terrible events at Crandall Canyon must never be forgotten and never be repeated," said Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers.