Galatia Mine Safety

Galatia Mine Safety
By: Carly O’Keefe 
GALATIA, IL -- It's the largest underground coal mine in the state of Illinois , and among the top 25 coal producers in the nation; but is it safe?

Mathew Mitchell was laid off from the Galatia Mine in late December; but he says during his six months working there as an underground miner he never feared he wouldn't come home to his wife and two daughters at the end of his shift.

"I didn't see anything underground where I was at that would warrant me being scared or anybody else," Mitchell said.

An annual report by the Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) shows the Galatia Mine more than doubled its number of mine safety violations from under 700 in 2004 to over 1500 in 2005. At the entrance to the Galatia Mine administration facilities, a sign reads: "safety is our prime consideration". It’s posted for passers by to see, and Mitchell tends to agree with the company’s assertion.

"I feel their safety is top notch. They were always on top of everything and if anything needed to be fixed, they got right on it," Mitchell said.

But the MSHA report lists 81 injuries in the mine last year-- that's up one from 2004; although miners worked fewer hours and produced less coal in 2005. Mitchell says he's never seen or heard of any miners with serious injuries during any of his shifts. 

"Yeah they got scrapes and bumps and bruises, but no one's come out of the mine seriously injured where I've worked," Mitchell said.

The Galatia Mine is Illinois' largest coal mine, and it's among the top 25 coal producers in the country. Some argue that because it's so large, small violations can add up quickly.
"This is a huge mine, it has over 1000 employees there's three different mines associated with the Galatia mine. If you have an operation that large, the feds are going to find something,” said Galatia resident Mary Wilson.

Wilson’s husband and brother work in the Galatia mine. She says she doesn't worry about their safety when they go to work, because she's confident in the mining industry's strict regulation and almost daily inspections.

"If there's a problem severe enough to where it's dangerous for these men to go in, they shut it down whether it's for two hours, four hours, or 2 days until they get the problem solved,” said Wilson.
For now, the Galatia mine faces almost $541,888 in penalties for 1520 safety violations ranging in severity cited in 2005. There have been no fatal accidents at the Galatia Mine since 1997. In 1998 it was purchased by and has since been under the management of the American coal company.