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Consol miner is third state coal death in past week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Marion County man has died from injuries received in a Consol Energy mining accident, making him the third West Virginia coal miner killed on the job in the last week.

Glen L. Clutter Jr., 51, of Baxter, died Thursday, Consol said in a statement. Clutter began his mining career in 1981 at Consol's Blacksville No. 1 Mine and had worked at the company's Loveridge Mine near Fairview for the last decade, a Consol spokeswoman said.

Clutter received severe head trauma on Tuesday evening when a metal bar he was using to help put a loaded supply car back on the mine's underground track system kicked out and hit him in the head, according to the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.

The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, and Clutter was unconscious when he was transported by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay said that operations at Loveridge would be halted until 4 p.m. Friday out of respect for Clutter, his family and his coworkers.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. Clutter's family and loved ones during this difficult time," Seay said.

Clutter is the second Consol worker to die on the job in the last three months. On Nov. 30, 58-year-old Markel Koon of Shinnston was killed when an embankment collapsed at a coal slurry impoundment at Consol's Robinson Run Mine near Lumberport. An investigation into that incident is ongoing.

"Safety remains at the core of everything we do at Consol Energy," the company said in a prepared statement Thursday. "It is our priority to prevent events like this one from ever happening and we continue to strive for a workplace experience of zero accidents."

This week's incident is the first fatal accident at the Loveridge operation since July 2010, when 39-year-old Jesse Adkins died when a mine wall collapsed.

Federal investigators concluded that the company's policies did not ensure that the mine wall was adequately supported to protect miners, and that equipment being used at the time was unsuitable for supporting the mine wall. Consol was fined $12,000.

Loveridge is a large underground mine that produced 5.9 million tons of coal with about 600 workers last year, records show. Hourly employees are represented by the United Mine Workers union.

Clutter is the fifth U.S. coal miner killed on the job so far in 2013, and the third West Virginia miner killed in the last week.

On Feb. 6, 34-year-old Brandon E. Townsend of Delbarton was killed when a hydraulic jack on a belt press exploded at Patriot Coal subsidiary Midland Trail Energy's Five Mile Prep Plant in the Campbells Creek area of Kanawha County.

And on Feb. 7, 43-year-old Edward L. Finney of Bluefield, Va., was killed in a hoist accident at Metinvest subsidiary Affinity Coal's Affinity Mine near Sophia in Raleigh County.

Last year, West Virginia led the nation with seven coal-mining deaths, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The last week's string of deaths comes after a series of missteps by the Tomblin administration as state regulators work to implement the governor's mine safety legislation passed during the 2012 session.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin did not mention the regulatory setbacks -- or the string of accidents -- in his State of the State address Wednesday night, but did promise that the state mine safety office would be exempt from budget cuts hitting other agencies. Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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