2 Die In West Virginia Mine Recently Cited For Pattern Of Violations

CREDIT: flickr/chuck holton

Two miners were killed around 8:30 p.m. on Monday after a coal outburst occurred in a West Virginia coal mine. The bodies of miners Eric Legg, 48, and Gary Hensley, 46, were recovered in the accident, according to NBC affiliate WSAZ. No other injuries have been reported. Coal outbursts involve the sudden and violent ejection of coal, gas and rock.

The accident occurred at the Brody Mine #1 in Boone County, owned by St. Louis-based Patriot Coal, in the southwest part of the state. In October, the Mining Safety and Health Administration put the mine on notice for a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards. It was one of three mines to be put on notice under the newly revised Pattern of Violations (POV) rule. One of the other mines was in West Virginia and the third in Kentucky.

The revised rules are a result of President Obama’s directive to mine health and safety officials in 2010 to crack down on coal mines with a pattern of serious safety violations. The announcement came after 29 miners died in an explosion in another West Virginia mine, the deadliest U.S. mining accident in four decades.

During a nine-month review period, the Brody Mine was cited for 253 significant and substantial violations resulting in 1,757 lost work days at the mine — 367 of which were from eight “time-lost” injuries that Brody Mining failed to report to MSHA. In a 2012 audit the MSHA found 29 injuries that Brody failed to report and 724 unreported lost work days.

In a letter to the safety manager at the mine, the MSHA wrote that “the determination was made on the basis of repeated violations of mandatory health or safety standards at the mine that could significantly and substantially contribute to the cause and effect of safety or health hazards.”

In a prepared statement in response, Patriot Coal said the company had acquired Brody Mine #1 at the end of 2012 and that since that time it had made considerable progress toward improved safety and compliance. The statement says the company “intends to vigorously contest the POV finding.”

In a report last week the MSHA found that in the first quarter of this year eight miners died in accidents in the U.S. mining industry, with three of those being in coal mining accidents. Before Monday’s accident, West Virginia had recorded 124 coal-mining deaths since 2003, about 39 percent of the U.S. total.

“Mine operators need to reevaluate the quality of the training miners are receiving and their examinations of miners’ work places because they appear to be lacking,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a statement about the report. “MSHA will be paying close attention to these deficiencies, as well as the types of hazards and conditions that have led to these deaths, during mine inspections.”