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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Joseph A. Main, the assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, writes in an editorial published in USA Today that the federal Mine Safety and Health Adminstration (MSHA) conducts comprehensive inspections of underground coal mines at least four times a year and gets things fixed, but lax mine operators game the system and keep unsafe mines operating by refusing to fulfill their legal obligation to keep the workplace safe. Main says the Upper Big Branch mine explosion was preventable in that MSHA, during the past decade, has stopped mining operations at portions of the Upper Big Branch at least 100 times with half of these withdrawal orders resulting from conditions that the operators should have known violated safety standards. But Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine, used legal loopholes to prevent the mine from showing a "pattern of violations".