By underreporting mine injuries and accidents, coal operators are dodging penalties from the Department of Labor, a new watchdog report has found.

The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration lacks sufficient "knowledge of the occurrence of underreporting" on the data of injuries, illnesses and accidents in mines to prevent it, according to the report.

From 2000-12, MSHA found more than 9,000 underreporting violations, which resulted in more than $1 million in proposed civil penalties. Civil penalties, along with enhanced oversight and publication of the names of violators, are the three methods used by MSHA to prevent underreporting.

These three punishments from MSHA are what coal operators try to dodge, the report says.

"MSHA had only a rough estimate of underreporting, but no information on which mines were the most likely to underreport and which types of injuries were the most likely to be underreported," the report said.

MSHA hired an outside contractor to look deeper into the "level of accuracy and completeness" of the injury and accent reporting, and the solutions it could take.

The contractor, Eastern Research Group, recommended MSHA "perform random audits to capture reliable injury and illness information from mines," according to the inspector general.

MSHA agreed to needing a better audit program, however raised concerns about the feasibility of it.

"While the question of the extent and magnitude of underreporting is an important one, the cost of obtaining the answer through auditing of mines randomly selected through sampling cannot be justified in the current budgetary climate,” the IG report said.