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Date: 10/8/2008 2:28 PM

By TIM HUBER
AP Business Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A coal company belonging to Bob Murray, the mine owner who entered the national spotlight last year when nine people died in a Utah mine, was fined $1.46 million Wednesday by federal regulators for safety violations at an Illinois operation.

Murray Energy’s Galatia Mine in southern Illinois repeatedly ignored safety regulations between September 2007 and January, leading to nine citations for flagrant violations, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said. Galatia is operated by Murray subsidiary American Coal Co.

“American Coal Co. repeatedly demonstrated its failure to comply with basic safety laws over a number of months,” MSHA director Richard Stickler said in a statement.

A Murray spokesman had no comment.

Ohio-based Murray also owns the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, where six miners and three would-be rescuers were killed by cave-ins in August 2007. MSHA fined Murray $1.6 million for violations that investigators determined directly contributed to the deaths of the six miners. It also asked federal prosecutors to consider criminal charges.

Inspectors found numerous problems at the Galatia Mine, including pre-shift safety inspections that missed crumbling roof material and the accumulation of combustible materials, MSHA said.

In another instance, an inspector watched as a maintenance supervisor reach into an energized 480-volt electrical panel, saying he was “taking a shortcut,” MSHA said. That violation led to a $161,800 fine for failing to de-energize the panel first.

MSHA said highly combustible coal dust was allowed to accumulate along conveyer belts. Conveyers can spark coal mine fires that sometimes lead to deadly explosions.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.