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Consent Decree Filed Where Operator Threatened, Fired Gun Around Inspectors

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle approved a consent decree for a permanent injunction against Andersen & Sons Gravel, and owner Eric Andersen, from preventing MSHA inspections at the company’s mining operation based in Clallam County, Wash.

The mine has been in operation since May 1, 2000, with rarely any MSHA citations. However, on June 17 and 18, 2015, MSHA found several violations, including excavation in close proximity to a 200-ft.-high “unsecured” highwall, which MSHA said was an imminent danger to miners working in the area.

  • The agency issued an order, which still remains open, for a violation of §56.3130 for wall, bank and slope instability. A $897 fine was assessed and paid by the company.
  • A second violation was found under §56.3131 for not having a proper angle of repose at the top of the pit wall. An $807 fine was assessed and paid for that violation.

According to the court documents, MSHA found “falling rocks and trees without root structures, and the grade of the wall was very steep.”

Imminent Danger

An imminent danger order was issued and the owner, Eric Andersen, “grew agitated and was visibly shaking during the inspection. He raised his voice, used profane language to complain about the government, said that he had nothing to live for, and threatened one MSHA inspector that he would ‘find where he lived’ and that Andersen would not ‘go out [die] alone.’

Andersen had a 12-gauge shotgun in his office and also told the MSHA inspector he was “packing.” Out of concern for his safety, the MSHA inspector left the property.

Two MSHA inspectors returned the next day to try and have a close-out conference with Andersen. During this time, Andersen told the MSHA inspectors he was armed and that MSHA was “taking away his life.”

Andersen allegedly told the inspectors that he would “pray every night that they and their families would die a horrible death” and that they would “all die a horrific death within the next 6½ years.” 

Another employee at the mine accused MSHA inspectors of wanting to shut the mine down, and physically blocked the exit to the office.

Fear for Safety

Again, the MSHA inspectors left after fearing for their safety, but when they got into their car, they “heard a quick succession of gunshots coming from Andersen’s location.”

A few days after this event, the FBI went to interview Andersen, and the MSHA field office supervisor was able to complete the inspection and terminate citations that had been abated.

While the permanent injunction signed by Judge Settle prevents Andersen and any agents or employees from interfering with MSHA inspections, MSHA records now show the mine as “abandoned” as of Sept. 14, 2015, and all civil penalties paid.

THOMAS PEREZ, SEC. of LABOR v. ANDERSEN & SONS GRAVEL, and ERIC ANDERSEN, filed 12/17/2015, DC WA Civil No 3:15-cv-05914.

§ 56.3130 Wall, bank, and slope stability.

Mining methods shall be used that will maintain wall, bank, and slope stability in places where persons work or travel in performing their assigned tasks. When benching is necessary, the width and height shall be based on the type of equipment used for cleaning of benches or for scaling of walls, banks, and slopes.

§ 56.3131 Pit or quarry wall perimeter. 

In places where persons work or travel in performing their assigned tasks, loose or unconsolidated material shall be sloped to the angle of repose or stripped back for at least 10 feet from the top of the pit or quarry wall. Other conditions at or near the perimeter of the pit or quarry wall which create a fall-of-material hazard to persons shall be corrected.