The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Cargill Fined 100,000 for Death of Five in Mine Accident

The Cargill Corporation-a giant agribusiness company based in Minnesota-pleaded guilty in late May to four counts of willfully violating mandatory U.S. mine safety health standards.

The charges were brought following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department and a federal grand jury in Lafayette, Louisiana, into a 1979 mine explosion disaster at Cargill's Belle Isle salt mine, which killed five workers. Sentencing of the company has been delayed, but Cargill faces a maximum fine of $100,000 for violations of mine shaft maintenance standards.

In a related case, a U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration [MSHA] inspector was charged with conspiracy and failure to enforce the mine safety and health law at Belle Isle. A sealed indictment against inspector Hugh D. Graham alleges that he "corruptly influenced, obstructed, and impeded the due and proper administration of federal laws," according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Charges, against Graham include claims that he failed to take action to classify the Belle Isle mine as "gassy," a term used to describe dangerous conditions of methane liberation in the mine prior to the 1979 explosion.

The charges, carry penalties of a maximum $25,000 fine and/or 15 years imprisonment. The original trial date of July 27 has been rescheduled. Graham is currently continuing to work as an MSHA employee pending outcome of the trial.

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