Coal Mining Company Cited for Violations in West Virginia Mine Death

May 9, 2008

Federal investigators cited coal operator Massey Energy Co. for safety violations that contributed to the death of a West Virginia miner last year, according to a federal report released May 7.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration found the violations while investigating a Dec. 4 accident at an underground Massey mine in Kanawha County. Miner David Neal, 57, fell about 39 feet when a conveyer belt he was repairing started unexpectedly. He died 10 days later.

The MSHA noted a series of problems at the mine in the report. Among other things, the agency cited Massey’s Mammoth Coal Co. because the belt had inadequate startup alarms, including one that wasn’t working, according to the report.

Inspectors also cited the mine after finding that the power to the belt hadn’t been turned off before Neal started work and that the circuit breaker had a broken handle, making it inoperable.

Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater noted in an e-mail that the company has conducted additional training on procedures for locking and tagging equipment and using fall protection equipment.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Neal family and our focus continues to be on preventing accidents,” Gillenwater said.

Massey, the nation’s No. 4 coal producer by revenue, operates mining complexes in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. The MSHA has not yet assessed penalties for the violations, according to the agency’s Web site.

The state of West Virginia fined Massey nearly $4,500 in March for safety violations that were turned up during its investigation.

Neal was one of 32 coal miners to die on the job in the United States last year, according to MSHA. The agency lists eight coal mining deaths this year.

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