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Massey cited in May mine death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal investigators say that Massey Energy did not follow proper roof control procedures and training requirements in the May death of a miner in Mingo County.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials cited Massey's Spartan Mining Co. subsidiary in the death of continuous mining machine operator James R. Erwin in a May 10 accident at the Ruby Energy Mine near Delbarton.

Erwin, 55, of Delbarton, was crushed between a shuttle car and the mine wall. He died 11 days later from injuries received in the incident.

In a report made public Wednesday, MSHA concluded that Spartan Mining did not implement its existing roof control plan adequately. The plan was designed to ensure miners did not position themselves in dangerous locations when mobile equipment was being operated.

MSHA also concluded that the company "failed to provide adequate training and oversight with regard to the training that the miners had received for working around mobile equipment in operation."

Federal inspectors cited Spartan Mining for violating a provision of its roof control plan that stated, "The continuous miner shall be operated from a sufficient distance while in the remote mode, so as the miner operator will not be endangered by the continuous miner or shuttle car."

"The accident occurred because the continuous mining machine operator was positioned in a dangerous location within the outside turn radius of the shuttle car as it left the entry," the MSHA report stated. "The shuttle car operator's vision was restricted by the loaded material on the shuttle car and the turning angle of the car, preventing him from observing the mining machine operator."

Massey officials could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

The Richmond, Va.-based company has been under tremendous scrutiny because of the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers at its Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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