Massey, ICG Cited for West Virginia Fatal Mine Accidents

July 17, 2008

Safety violations by prominent eastern U.S. coal mine operators Massey Energy Co. and International Coal Group contributed to the deaths of two miners in accidents last May, West Virginia officials said July 15.

Each company has been cited, though fines have not been assessed yet, according to the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training. Contributing violations can carry fines up to $10,000.

Massey violated state mining regulations because no one cut off power to an electric-powered shuttle car before electrician Nathan Dove started repairs, state mine inspector Eugene White told the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety.

The 24-year-old Dove, a certified mine electrician in three states, was electrocuted when he cut into a live wire on the shuttle car, which quit while loaded with coal it was to haul to the conveyer belt at Massey’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine. The Logan County mine was the scene of a fire that killed two miners in January 2006 and helped convince Congress to adopt sweeping mine safety legislation that year.

Though power should have been locked out so the vehicle couldn’t be re-energized and it should have been tagged to alert miners that it was being repaired, neither was done, White said.

Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said it’s unclear why Dove, who had received “extensive” training on locking and tagging, didn’t follow procedure.

“It is required and we are not sure why Mr. Dove did not lock and tag out this piece of equipment prior to working on it,” Gillenwater said in an e-mail. “Electricians understand that it is their duty to lock and tag any piece of equipment they are working on.”

Dove had locked another shuttle he was repairing shortly before the fatal accident, though it was not tagged, White said.

State inspectors also issued Massey eight citations for noncontributing violations found during the investigation.

ICG, meanwhile, was cited for two violations that state investigators say contributed to the May 30 death of apprentice miner Adam Lanham. The 18-year-old Lanham was working for an outside contractor when he was run over by a scoop hauling at ICG’s underground Sentinel Mine in Barbour County.

One citation charges an ICG foreman drove the scoop in an unsafe manner because he was too close to Lanham and allowed him to walk in front of the vehicle.

Lanham was behind the scoop, but walked around to the front when he was struck, state inspector Alan Lander said.

The other citation charges the foreman violated regulations by operating equipment while supervising Lanham, who had 33 days of mining experience. Regulations don’t allow supervisors to operate equipment while supervising apprentices, Lander said.

ICG plans to contest the violations.

“International Coal Group disagrees with the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training’s findings of two contributory violations,” spokesman Ira Gamm said in an e-mail.

The deaths of Lanham and Dove remain under investigation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, a spokeswoman said.

Four West Virginians are among the 16 U.S. coal miners killed on the job in 2008.

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