Kentucky Coal Mine Cited After Video Showed Cracked Seals

July 20, 2007

Federal mine-safety officials have cited an eastern Kentucky coal mine after a miner’s video showed some mine seals were cracked and leaking water.

The video, shot by miner Charles Scott Howard inside the Cumberland River Coal Co.’s Band Mill No. 2 Mine in Letcher County, was shown last week at a federal Mine Safety Health Administration hearing in Lexington on new mine seal regulations.

After Howard played the video, moderator Patricia Silvey said the agency would investigate.

MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Tuesday that inspectors visited the Band Mill mine last Thursday and Friday to check the seals. MSHA cited the mine on Friday for failing to conduct a pre-shift examination of the seals, Louviere said.

“Other enforcement actions will be considered as appropriate,” she said in a statement.

Cumberland River Coal Co. is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Arch Coal. Last week, Arch spokeswoman Kim Link said problems at the mine were fixed shortly after Howard shot the video in late April. Arch Coal officials did not return a call seeking comment to the MSHA action.

Mine seals, which shut off abandoned portions of coal mines from areas where miners are working, are supposed to be checked before each work shift begins. The inspections are intended to detect any problems or other hazardous situations involving the seals.

Attorney Tony Oppegard told MSHA officials at last week’s hearing that seal inspections often are not performed properly, or are not performed at all.

Oppegard said Tuesday that a failure to inspect seals at the Band Mill No. 2 mine would constitute a “serious violation,” because the “next shift of miners going underground wouldn’t have known if they were going into a hazardous situation.”

Oppegard is representing five widows whose husbands died in last year’s Darby Mine explosion in Harlan County in eastern Kentucky. Problems with seals were cited in that disaster, as well as in the 2006 Sago Mine explosion in West Virginia. The two blasts killed a total of 17 miners, prompting MSHA to issue a new emergency regulation calling for stronger seals.

Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

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