On Tuesday, Roberts said that top MSHA officials have been traveling across the country recently to promote the agency's successes. But coal mining deaths actually increased last year, from 27 in 2002 to 30 in 2003, Roberts said.
The 14 fatalities so far in 2004 compare to 13 at the same point in 2003, according to MSHA data.
"The UMWA continues to remind people that coal mining is not getting safer," Roberts said.
- UMW Local 93 member Robert Rice II was killed June 10 at the former Marrowbone Development coal preparation complex in Mingo County when he lost control of a truck, jumped from the vehicle and was run over by it, according to a preliminary MSHA report. Rice and other workers at the idled facility were trying to fix drainage control problems at a coal slurry impoundment, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
- Local 2397 member Kenneth Battles was killed June 16 at the Jim Walters No. 7 mine near Brookwood, AL, when a piece of equipment began to move without warning. UMW member Gary Wayne Keeton was killed in April in a similar accident at Jim Walters No. 7, in Alabama.
- Edwin Pennington, 25,of Bledsoe, KY was crushed June 16 when some 200 feet of rocks collapsed on top of him in a Bell County Coal Corp. underground mine at Coal Creek just outside of Middlesboro. Pennington was working with a crew that was performing retreat mining, a process used in played-out mines in which portions of coal pillars that support the roof are removed.
- Eric Chaney, 26, of Kimper, KY, was killed June 17 at the Dags Branch Coal Corp. No. 6 mine at Feds Creek. He was moving cables near a mining machine when rocks fell on him. Chaney was assisting the operator of a continuous miner, a machine that loosens coal in underground mines and feeds it onto conveyors.