Enforcement activities are mandated by the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia and help to ensure that mining operations are conducted in compliance with the minimum standards established by law. Click the links below to learn more about our requirements.

Administrative Review of Violations

The Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia provides for the appeal and administrative review of any violation issued by the Department . The person to whom a Notice of Violation has been issued may appeal the issuance in writing within 20 days of receipt of the violation. Upon proper notice and standing, Coal Mine Safety will conduct an informal conference pursuant to §9-6.14.12. The Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia guarantees judicial review to any party aggrieved by and claiming unlawfulness of the administrative decision. This governs administrative appeals prior to any judicial appeal. This procedure is only intended to address the administrative review of violations issued under Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia 45.2-568 and does not concern certification, licensing, and closure decisions.

Persons seeking to appeal a Notice of Violation should mail or deliver a written notice of appeal to our office in Big Stone Gap or Lebanon. Coal Mine Safety personnel will only accept written requests to appeal a Notice of Violation.

Enforcement Actions

When an inspector identifies a violation of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia, a Notice of Violation or Closure Order shall be issued in writing with reasonable promptness, and will describe the nature of the violation including the section fo the Act or regulation violated.

  • Notice of Violations
  • Enforcement actions must be consistently applied at all mines. If a mine inspector has reasonable cause to believe a violation of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia has occurred, a Notice of Violation must be issued to the person responsible for the violation. The Notice of Violation will be deemed to be the final order of Coal Mine Safety and not subject to review by any court or agency unless, within 20 days following issuance, the person to whom the Notice of Violation was issued appeals its issuance by notifying Coal Mine Safety in writing. See Administrative Review Procedures.

  • Closure Orders
  • A Closure Order may be issued requiring any mine or section thereof be cleared of all persons, or equipment removed from use when
    1. (i) a violation of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia has occurred;
    2. (ii) a mine fire, mine explosion, or other serious accident has occurred at the mine, as may be necessary to preserve the scene of such accident during the investigation of the accident;
    3. (iii) a mine is operating without a license;
    4. (iv) an operator to whom a Notice of Violation was issued has failed to abate the violation cited therein within the time period provided in such notice for its abatement.
    The issuance of a Closure Order will constitute a final order of Coal Mine Safety, and the owner or operator of the mine will not be entitled to administrative review of such decision. The owner or operator of any mine or part thereof for which a Closure Order has been issued may within 10 days following the issuance of the order, bring a civil action in the circuit court of the city or county in which the mine is located for review of the decision.

  • Penalties
  • Any person convicted of willfully violating any provision of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia or any regulation promulgated pursuant to this Act, unless otherwise specified in this Act, will be guilty of a Class I misdemeanor.

  • Prosecution of Violations
  • It will be the duty of the Commonwealth Attorney to prosecute any violation of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia.


These activities are mandated by the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia and help to ensure that mining operations are conducted in compliance with the minimum standards established by law. Efficient and effective inspections and investigations conducted by our experienced and well trained inspectors help to identify compliance problems and other health and safety issues which, when corrected, promote improved health and safety performance at mines. The end result is a safer and better work place for Virginia's coal miners.

Coal Mine Safety inspection staff consists of 18 coal mine inspectors and two coal mine inspector supervisors. There are nine inspectors and one inspector supervisor assigned to the Lebanon Office, located in Russell County at Lebanon, VA. Nine inspectors and one inspector supervisor are assigned to the Big Stone Gap Office, located in Wise County at Big Stone Gap, VA. The inspection groups serve Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Montgomery, Russell, Scott, and Wise Counties.

  • Regular Inspections Regular inspections must be completed as prescribed by the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia Section 45.1-161.81 A. An inspection of every underground coal mine must be completed not less frequently than every 180 days. Each surface coal mine must be inspected not less frequently than once per year. More frequent regular inspections of coal mines may be scheduled based on risk assessment.
  • Spot Inspections Coal Mine Safety inspector, inspector supervisor, or Chief may schedule spot inspections. Spot inspections may focus on specific high-risk areas, equipment, or practices. Spot inspections, like regular inspections, will be scheduled as part of a mine risk assessment.
  • Other Inspections Other types of inspections that my be conducted are:
    • Initial 5-day Spot Inspections - Upon notification of the opening of a newly licensed mine, a mine visit will be made by the inspector within five working days to identify the status of the mine. The inspector will assist the mine operator with issues concerning requirements of the coal mine safety laws, and provide information about the operator assistance programs available through Coal Mine Safety that promote and assist in improving mine safety performance. After the operator has been informed of the requirements of the law, a regular inspection will normally be initiated within 30 calendar days.
    • Reopening Inspections - Coal Mine Safety Enforcement staff may assist the Technical Specialist on reopening inspections if deficiencies are cited by the Technical Specialist. A reopening inspection will not be completed if production has started; a regular inspection will be started.
    • Smoking Articles Inspections - Upon notification from the federal Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA), anonymous complaint, or other sources of alleged smoking underground, Coal Mine Safety Inspection staff will coordinate with the MSHA District Manager or Assistant District Manager to conduct an inspection. Investigative procedures have been established for the purpose of responding effectively to alleged felony acts related to carrying and using smoker's articles in underground mines.
Investigation of Mine Accidents

The Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia requires an operator to report promptly to the Department occurrence of the following accidents:
  • Inundations - Methane, water, accidental cutting into old works;
  • Ignitions - Explosion of methane or dust at a mine;
  • Roof Falls - Any unplanned roof fall at or above the anchorage zone or that impairs ventilation or impedes passage;
  • Mine Fires - Unplanned fire not extinguished within 30 minutes of discovery;
  • Explosions - Methane or dust;
  • Serious Personal Injury - Has reasonable potential to cause death or injury other than sprain or strain which requires hospital admission for 24 hours or more for medical treatment; and
  • Fatalities - Death at a mine whether the victim is employed at the mine or not. NOTE: The scene of the accident is to remain unchanged pending investigation except as needed to remove injured persons or protect property.
A mine inspector, with assistance from a Technical Specialist, will be dispatched promptly to the mine accident, investigate causes and issue such orders as necessary to ensure safety of persons. A report of investigation findings, including recommendations for prevention, will be completed.

Representatives of the operator will render assistance needed in the investigations.

Risk Assessment

For the purpose of allocating the resources of Virginia Energy, the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia mandates that we schedule inspections above the minimum required of coal mines, based on the comparative risks at each mine.

A risk assessment will be conducted  for each active mine based on procedures developed with the assistance of the Industry Advisory Committee.  The risk assessment results are used  by Coal Mine Safety in accordance with Section 45.2-559 and 45.2-560 of the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia to schedule inspection activities and effectively utilize resources of the Department.  Underground mines are ranked each six months on January 1st and  July 1st using the previous year's data.  Surface mines will be ranked on July 1st.   Risk assessment is calculated based on the following categories of mine data:

  1. Serious Injuries - based on the number of serious injuries investigated at mine/inspection hours;
  2. Violation Rate - number of violations/inspections hours;
  3. Failure to Abate/Imminent Danger - number of Closure Orders and inspection hours;
  4. Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) Injury Rate - based on federal Mine Safety Health and Administration data; and
  5. Regular/Spot Inspection Rate - mine evaluation based on inspector review

The type and frequency of inspection's received by a mine will be determined by its overall score, in conjunction with the tables shown below:


Underground Mines

Overall Score Type/Frequency of Inspection
0-1 1 regular inspection per 6 months
2-4        1 regular, 1 spot inspection per 6 months
5-10   2 regular inspections per 6 months
Fatality 4 regular inspections per year
New Mine 4 regular inspections per year


Surface Mines

0-1 1 regular inspection per year
2-4 1 regular, 1 spot inspection per year
5-10 1 regular, 2 spot inspections per year
Fatality 2 regular inspections per year
New Mine 2 regular inspections per year