both said the miners were apparently performing “retreat mining,” a dangerous process where miners remove the last bits of coal possible from pillars meant to hold up the mine roof before abandoning that section of the mine.These were the first two coal mining deaths in West Virginia this year. Another coal miner, Jeremy Garcia, 26, was killed in a Colorado coal mine last week.
The mine didn't exactly have a steller safety record, according to Ken Ward at the Charleston Gazette.
Last year, the Cucumber Mine recorded an injury rate that was twice the national average for similar mines, according to MSHA data.Or not.
Mine officials reported seven nonfatal injuries in 2006, including one machinery accident that left a worker with permanent total or permanent partial disabilities, according to MSHA records.
In 2006, MSHA inspectors cited the mine for 65 violations, assessing it $5,051 in fines, and the company paid the total amount, the records show.
During the last two quarterly inspections in 2006, MSHA inspectors found 32 violations, including six related to roof-control problems, according to federal data.
In late October, a 49-year-old continuous-mining-machine operator, Thomas Channell, was killed in another Alpha subsidiary’s mine in Preston County.
Channell died when a mine wall fell, pinning him against a shuttle car. Federal officials issued no citations in that death at Kingwood Mining Co.’s Whitetail Kittanning Mine near Fellowsville.Last month, MSHA chief Richard Stickler visited a Brooks Run coal preparation plant in Webster County to celebrate the operation’s receiving a prestigious Sentinels of Safety Award in 2005 for having no reportable accidents during its employees’ 122,000 hours worked that year.
But in 2004, two Brooks Run miners were killed in a five-week period, one at the preparation plant Stickler visited and another at a nearby underground mine. MSHA cited the company in both deaths, and Brooks Run paid a total of $66,000 in fines.
After his visit, Stickler said in an interview, “They had those two fatalities and they made a commitment that they were going to do something drastically different. Obviously, this company has made a commitment to safety. That’s the way they’re running their business.”
47 coal miners were killed on the job last year, according to MSHA, the most since 1995. 22 coal miners were killed in 2005. 25 metal/non-metal miners were killed on the job last year, compared with 35 the year before. One metal/non-metal miner has been killed on the job so far this year.