Virginia Nears Third Year without a Mine Death

December 28, 2007

With the end of 2007 days away, Virginia is nearing a third consecutive year without a coal mining death.

Virginia, ranked No. 10 in the nation in coal production, saw its last coal mining fatality on Oct. 23, 2004.

Mike Abbott, spokesman for Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, credits the death-free streak in part to a 2007 Virginia mine safety law.

Signed in April by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the law creates substance abuse standards for the coal industry. Coal miners, for instance, can be required to take drug tests if a state mine safety inspector has a reason to think he or she is impaired and if the suspected impairment contributed to a serious injury.

The state’s Board of Coal Mining Examiners conducted its first hearing in September under the new law. Hearings are held each month.

Abbott said 89 cases involving suspended miners were addressed by the board in four hearing sessions. Forty-one miners had their miner certifications revoked while eight were granted probationary reinstatement of certification based on their compliance with treatment programs.

Fourteen miners had their certification restored by the board, but 23 other cases await hearings, Abbott said.

In 2006, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration reported 47 fatalities nationwide. According to MSHA, 37 of the deaths in 2006 were in underground coal mines while 10 were at surface mines.

In 2007, according to MSHA statistics, 32 miners lost their lives on the job. Eighteen deaths were recorded in underground mines while 14 were at surface mines.

The last surface mine death in Virginia occurred on March 14, 2001, and involved a roof collapse, Abbott said.


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