As of September 2018, the United States House Committee on Education and Labor has been examining details of the agreement concluded between the coal company of Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov Pocahontas coal company LLC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor.
Interest of the Congress in this agreement arose after the Administration had canceled status of “systematic offender” regarding Affinity Mine in the United States. Akhmetov’s coal company Pocahontas LLC extracts coal there and ships it to Ukrainian coke plants. This is stated in the investigation of the program Schemes: Corruption in Details (the joint project of Radio Svoboda and TV channel UA:Pershyi), the publication Ukrayinska Pravda and NGO Anti-Corruption Action Center – Ukraine-USA: double standards of the oligarch Akhmetov.
Pocahontas coal company LLC is one of subsidiaries of American coal enterprise United coal company, which is the member of Rinat Akhmetov’s Holding Metinvest. This company has been producing coal at Affinity Mine in West Virginia since 2006.
In 2013, two miners died at this mine during two weeks. One of tragedies happened because of poor quality parts of the lift, on which miners went below the ground. During investigation of the tragedy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Pocahontas coal company LLC systematically violated mandatory occupational safety standards. According to results of Administration investigation, the mine was assigned Pattern of Violations (POV) for five years.
The mine, which has been assigned problematic status, falls under increased control of the regulator. And if the Administration registers any new violations on this mine within three months after being assigned this status, then it has the right to issue the order regarding withdrawal of miners and, accordingly, stopping the coal production. And this is already serious financial loss for the mine’s owner, according to the investigation of journalists.
Pocahontas coal company LLC tried to cancel this status in court, but to no avail. Because the Administration registered new violations at the mine each time and, according to estimates of the Committee of the Congress, there has been 265 violations during five years.
But despite systematic violations and fines, the regulator made concessions to the company of Ukrainian billionaire. In summer 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded settlement agreement with the company of Akhmetov and canceled the problematic status.
In 2018, the United States House Committee on Education and Labor became interested in the agreement between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Akhmetov’s company. In September 2018, the Committee asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide details of the meeting with representatives of the coal company of Rinat Akhmetov. In the letter to the Administration, the Committee of the Congress expressed doubts about legality of agreement with the company of Ukrainian oligarch and asked for exact date of full inspection of the mine, during which the Administration had found no violations. Only in this case the Administration had the right to cancel problematic status.
Journalists sent the request to Metinvest asking for comment. But the latter refused to give it.
Earlier, Schemes showed that companies of Ukrainian oligarch pay millions of dollars in case of violation of security requirements at their enterprises in the USA. At the same time, in Ukraine, ordinary employees of his plant are most often brought to responsibility.
Also, in the investigation Monopolist “undercover”, journalists stated that holding Metinvest of Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov and MP Vadym Novynskyi became the owners of five out of eight coke plants located in the territory controlled by Ukraine. Such monopolization of the industry, in fact, occurred with deception of members of the Anti-Monopoly Committee.