Coal Mining Accident Leads to Fourth Mining Fatality in West Virginia This Year

Tragically, another West Virginia coal miner was killed in a mining accident late last month. The coal mining accident occurred on July 27, 2012, at the Fork Creek No. 10 Mine in Boone County which was operated by Coal River Mining LLC. A 35 year old miner was pinned between the conveyor boom of a remote controlled continuous mining machine and the outby rib of the No. 4 Right Crosscut. At the time of the accident, the continuous mining machine was moving to an adjacent entry in preparation for the oncoming day shift. The miner died as a result of critical injuries he sustained in the accident. This is the fourth reported coal mining fatality in West Virginia this year alone and the twelfth nationally according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

As election time nears, our televisions and radios are being filled with political commercials and ads. Here in West Virginia, coal is one of the central issues in the upcoming elections and is a pillar of many politicians' platforms. Most of these commercials and platforms center upon whether or not there is a "War on Coal" at the federal level and who voted on certain legislation concerning environmental regulations that may jeopardize coal mining jobs.

What is missing from these ads and platforms, however, is sufficient discussion on legislation and/or policies to promote the health and safety of our coal miners and ways to hold negligent mine operators accountable. In the wake of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion and other mining accidents, federal and state governments have made attempts to protect the safety and well-being of our miners. For example, legislation has been proposed and/or passed that provides for additional inspection and investigation authority for MSHA, gives safety regulators enhanced enforcement authority, provides for increased penalties to negligent companies for violations of MSHA regulations, and provides increased whistleblower protections to those miners who report safety violations.

However, these measures are not enough by themselves. We need to demand accountability from the mine operators who we allow to do business and profit in our State. Every coal mine operator must strive to provide its miners with a reasonably safe place to work which is free from recognized hazards.

Our West Virginia Coal Mining Accident Lawyers have represented far too many miners who have needlessly been hurt or killed in a coal mining accident together with their families. As such, our attorneys know first hand the consequences that result when mine operators fail to account for their miners' safety. In order to prevent any future fatalities or injuries from coal mining accidents like the one discussed herein, mine operators should at a minimum implement the following safety practices:

  • Ensure that all persons, including the continuous mine operator, are positioned outside the machine's turning radius before starting or moving the machine.
  • Maintain clear visibility and communications with all personnel in the vicinity of the equipment, and minimize the number of miners working around or near the continuous mining machines.
  • Frequently review, retrain, and discuss the importance of staying out of any "Danger" or "Red" Zone area while operating or working near a continuous mining machine.
  • Position the conveyor boom away from the operator or other miners working in the area when tramming or moving the machine.
  • Install Proximity Detection Systems on continuous mining machines and haulage.

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