MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A regulatory filing by Patriot Coal Corp. reveals that federal investigators have demanded information about methane gas detectors as they investigate questionable safety records at the Federal No. 2 mine in Northern West Virginia.
The St. Louis-based coal operator said in a recent quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the information was subpoenaed in late April. Investigators wanted information about what kind of gas-detecting equipment it has used at the mine near Fairview since July 2008. The subpoena also demanded the results of tests on that equipment.
Patriot spokeswoman Janine Orf declined to comment on the 6-month-old investigation except to say the company is cooperating.
John Renner, an ex-foreman from Granville who admitted faking a safety inspection report in January, is cooperating with the federal investigation and will be sentenced next year in U.S. District Court for making false statements and certifications. He faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Though Renner recorded numbers for methane and oxygen levels on a sealed area in the mine, he later acknowledged he didn't do the inspection.
Federal regulations have required seal monitoring because of a January 2006 methane explosion in a sealed section of International Coal Group's Sago Mine that trapped and ultimately killed 12 men.
The massive longwall operation at Federal No. 2 has more than 90 seals, but Renner told investigators only a handful routinely caused problems.
Renner has since been fired, and two other employees were put on administrative leave.
On Tuesday, Patriot named a new operations manager for Federal No. 2. Thomas H. "Pete" Simpson, a veteran with 35 years of experience in underground mining and management, will succeed Joseph B. "Blair" McGill, who is retiring in January.