Tucson-based Asarco LLC has received 51 citations for health and safety violations at its Hayden copper concentrator operation, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday.
An Asarco official said the company is contesting most of the violations and that safety is the company's top priority.
The mine-safety agency cited the Asarco plant for 15 "significant and substantial" violations and 36 nonsignificant violations.
A significant and substantial violation is defined as one "likely to result in a reasonably serious injury or illness" under the circumstance of the violation. Significant violations can result in fines of thousands of dollars each, but the citations can be contested before any fines are levied.
Asarco spokesman Tom Aldrich said four of the citations involved contractors working on site at the concentrator, which employs about 500 Asarco workers. Of the 47 citations lodged against Asarco, three already have been vacated and the company is contesting 28 others, Aldrich said.
A detailed report on the Asarco citations was not immediately available. Aldrich said many of the violations were minor, such as an empty fire extinguisher that had already been replaced but wasn't yet collected for refilling.
"Asarco is very committed to safety, and it's the number one priority for Asarco and all of its employees," Aldrich said.
He said Asarco's Hayden operation recently completed more than a million man-hours without an accident through May. The plant has had one incident this year for an incident rate of 0.7 per 100 full-time workers this year, compared with the national average of 0.96 for the mining industry overall, Aldrich said.
The Hayden citations were among 262 citations and 19 safety orders issued last month during so-called "special-impact inspections" conducted at eight coal mines and five metal/nonmetal mines.
The mining safety agency said the monthly inspections began in force in April 2010, after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The inspections involve mines that merit increased attention and enforcement because of their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, including high numbers of violations, the agency said.
Aldrich said the Hayden operation is typically inspected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration twice a year.
The last time the Hayden operation was inspected was in January, when the company was cited for eight violations, he said. All were settled in some fashion, Aldrich said, adding that he was unaware of any resulting fines.
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