January 7, 2011 – In an unprecedented legal case, the Labor Dept. and Massey Energy's Freedom Energy Mining Co. have reached a settlement where MSHA sought a court injunction on the "belief" of a pattern of violations. Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith said the "Labor Dept. is very excited by this settlement," noting that most of the settlement provisions go "above and beyond the normal requirements contained in the Mine Act." According to Rock Products columnist Ellen Smith, publisher of Mine Safety and Health News, "The settlement has the potential to affect every mine operator in the U.S." To initiate an enforcement action, MSHA needs only to believe there is a pattern of violations. Think about it. Using whatever criteria they wish to use. If MSHA suspects there is a pattern of violations, you can be shut down. This goes way beyond what they industry has heretofore experienced with regard to enforcement strategy. Stay tuned for more on this in the future.