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Alpha contractor pleads guilty in training case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A contract worker for Alpha Natural Resources has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about training practices at the company's Cucumber Mine in McDowell County.

Raymond C. Dawson, 57, of Raysal, pleaded guilty to a single felony count before U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger in Beckley. Dawson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Dawson had been certified by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration to provide certain training to miners at the Cucumber operation, an underground mine operated by Alpha subsidiary Brooks Run Mining Co.

A Brooks Run contractor, Griffith Construction Co., was using Dawson to provide training to its miners.

Dawson admitted that on or about Nov. 3, 2008, he falsely told government investigators that he always gave miners the required training and kept them in training classes for the required amount of time.

According to court records, as recently as Oct. 18, 2008, Dawson had provided miners with incomplete training courses while meeting with the workers at his home. Dawson admitted to doing the same thing on at least two other instances during the period from August to October 2008.

"This prosecution continues this administration's commitment to keep mines safe by holding accountable individuals who shirk their duties under the mine act," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Alpha Natural Resources is in the midst of finalizing its proposed merger with Massey Energy, whose safety practices have been under sharp criticism following last year's disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

The Cucumber Mine was the scene of a massive roof fall in January 2007 that killed two workers, James David Thomas and Pete Poindexter. MSHA investigators later found the miners died because the company ignored roof control requirements and did not train miners in proper roof control practices.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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