Company fined after exposing Montana workers to arsenic

A Montana company that turned mining waste into roofing material was fined and sentenced to medical surveillance after pleading guilty to exposing its employees to arsenic

December 10, 2021, 7:56 p.m.

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BUTTE, Mont. – A company that turned mining waste into roofing material at a Montana facility was fined Friday and ordered to medically monitor workers after pleading guilty of exposing employees to arsenic.

US Minerals, based in Tinley Park, Illinois, has been fined $ 393,200 by US District Judge Dana Christensen and is sentenced to five years probation according to court records. In August, the company pleaded guilty to the negligent endangerment of a violation of the federal law on air pollution control.

Prosecutors said US Minerals continues to poison its workers by exposing them to arsenic despite repeated warnings from regulators. Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic can lead to skin cancer and cancers of the bladder and lungs, according to the World Health Organization.

In its confession of guilt, the company admitted that it had “negligently brought another person into imminent danger of death or serious physical injury”.

From 2013 until closing in June 2021, the company’s Anaconda plant converted mining waste known as black slag – a by-product of a hundred-year-old copper smelting in the city – into roofing materials called Black Diamond Abrasive Products.

Under an agreement, US Minerals plants in Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana will be under increased supervision from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a five-year probationary period.

Under the agreement, employees using the medical surveillance program would not waive their right to initiate civil proceedings against US Minerals.

Five out of six employees tested at the Anaconda plant in July 2015 had elevated arsenic levels, according to a 2016 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Breathing protection was available at the time, but not mandatory, and there were no running water or hand washing stations in the plant

The company was fined nearly $ 107,000 by OSHA for violations in 2016.

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