Federal court orders Missouri mine owner – who forced inspectors off the road – to allow US Department of Labor inspectors to complete safety inspections
WASHINGTON – A federal district court judge issued an injunction to prevent a Missouri mine operator and its owner from stopping federal inspectors from completing workplace safety inspections now and in the future at the Partridge Sand & Gravel mine in Stone.
The court action follows an incident at the mine on Aug. 17, 2021, when inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration tried to conduct a statutorily required inspection. As they drove toward the mine, its owner – Westley Partridge – used loading equipment filled with rocks and dirt to force the MSHA inspectors’ vehicle off the road. Partridge then verbally harassed the inspectors and ordered them off the property.
In response, the department’s Office of the Solicitor filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on Sept. 28, 2021, to ensure MSHA inspectors had access to the mine. On Dec. 14, the U.S. Marshals Service served the complaint on Partridge. On Jan. 12, 2022, Partridge allowed MSHA inspectors to inspect the mine.
On Feb. 2, 2022, Partridge and his company, Partridge Sand & Gravel Inc. agreed to a consent judgment barring them from interfering with, delaying or impeding a mine inspection. The judgment also bars them from threatening, harassing, or intimidating an MSHA inspector carrying out the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
“Congress mandated regular Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections to protect the health and safety of our nation’s miners. We will not allow mine operators to prevent the U.S. Department of Labor from doing its vital work,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “We appreciate the U.S. Marshals Service for their efforts in helping us enforce the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.”
“To perform our agency’s critical work and protect the nation’s miners, our inspectors need access to all mine operations,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette Galanis. “The actions of the U.S. Department of Labor make clear that the department will not tolerate mine operators who unlawfully prevent safety inspectors from doing their job.”