CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A miner at an Alpha Natural Resources operation died in March because the company did not develop a plan to properly support mine walls and failed to conduct adequate safety examinations, according to a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration report made public Wednesday.
MSHA issued five enforcement actions to Alpha subsidiary Kingston Mining Inc., all alleging an "unwarrantable failure to comply" with federal safety standards, according to the agency report.
The Alpha company had previously been cited by the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training with 45 safety violations in the investigation of the March 10 mine wall collapse that killed 34-year-old section foreman Jeremy Sigler of Pool at the Kingston No. 2 Mine near Mossy.
State officials had also cited five foremen at Kingston, alleging that they ignored dozens of safety violations, including the kind of poor mine wall stability that investigators believe led to Sigler's death, records show.
In the incident, Sigler was operating a continuous mining machine when a piece of mine wall, or rib, fell on him. MSHA said the piece of rib was more than six feet long, 40 inches wide, and varied in thickness from one to 10 inches. It weighed 1,800 pounds, MSHA said.
The incident occurred in an area of the mine with what MSHA classified as "deep cover," meaning that part of the mine had more than 1,100 feet of rock, dirt and earth above it.
MSHA said that hazardous conditions in the area were obvious and included fallen sections of mine rib extending for a distance of 640 feet.
"Mine management took insufficient actions to prevent the existence of hazardous rib conditions and allowed miners to be exposed to the hazardous conditions for an extensive period of time," the MSHA report said. "Mine management performed inadequate examinations and failed to recognize the seriousness of the hazards present on the section."
Ted Pile, a spokesman for Alpha, did not respond to a request for comment on the MSHA report.
Alpha officials have promoted their company safety program, "Running Right," as the solution to improving health-and-safety performance, especially at the former Massey Energy operations it purchased nearly a year ago. Kingston was already an Alpha subsidiary prior to the Massey deal.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.