All three mines are located in Knott County, Ky. In addition to seeking penalties from the mining companies, the lawsuit seeks to hold four individual defendants—Larry King, Barry King, Alice Hall and Kermit Hall—liable for the unpaid penalties.

“There is no excuse for mine operators to deliberately flout their obligations to pay civil penalties for safety and health violations,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “MSHA and the Department of Labor will not hesitate to hold scofflaw operators accountable.”

The civil penalties result from approximately 478 citations issued for violations at Double A’s No. 4 mine beginning in August 2005 and approximately 145 citations for violations at B King Coal’s Nos. 1 and 2 mines from August 2004 through December 2006.

When none of the penalties were contested by the mine operator, they became final orders of the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission and required payment within 30 days of receipt.

In March 2008, MSHA issued the No. 4 mine a withdrawal order for failure to pay civil penalties. Since that time, the mine has been shut down. This was the first time the agency had issued a withdrawal order to a mine operator for failure to pay delinquent fines. B King Coal’s Nos. 1 and 2 mines have been abandoned.