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Mine road where Va. boy died lacked permit

An operator of a Virginia strip mine did not have a permit for the road construction that caused a boulder to roll off the mine site and kill a 3-year-old boy, officials said Wednesday.

A&G Coal Corp. did not submit plans for the construction or receive approval from the state for the work, said Mike Abbott, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy.

Agency inspectors discovered the lack of a permit as they continued to investigate the Aug. 20 incident in Wise County, Va.

Jeremy Davidson was asleep when the rock burst through the wall of his family’s modular home at about 2:30 a.m. and landed on top of him.

The rock bounced onto the floor, and broke through another wall, landing next to Davidson’s brother’s bed, officials said.

The incident occurred at Inman, a small community about 90 miles southwest of William-son.

On a ridge above the town, A&G Coal was upgrading a road for coal-haul trucks.

A&G is a contractor for Matt Mining Inc., which holds the permit for the nearby Strip Mine No. 13, according to state officials.

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining has said it has no plans to investigate whether Virginia officials properly enforced strip mine regulations at Mine No. 13.

In its most recent evaluation of Virginia regulators, OSM said that 90 percent of the mine sites inspected by Virginia in 2003 were “free of off-site impacts.”

A Virginia inspector visited Mine No. 13 on Aug. 13, just a week before Davidson was killed, according to state agency records. No violations were found.

A few days before, on Aug. 9, the company had been cited for not giving residents copies of its blasting schedule.

Originally, the state issued a permit for Mine No. 13 in 1998, according to state and federal records. Today, the operation covers more than 2,000 acres and last year produced 1.3 million tons of coal.

In November 2002, Virginia approved the addition of about 19 acres that included the area immediately up the hill from the Inman community, records show.

But, that approval did not include authorization to enlarge a road on the site for use as a coal-haul road, Abbott said Wednesday afternoon.

“They are required to submit a design for our agency to approve, and that was not done,” Abbott said. “We are greatly concerned that they failed to go through the proper procedures so that this could have been done correctly in the first place.”

Abbott said that investigators believe that A&G did not start work on the road until late the night before or early the morning of the 2:30 a.m. accident.

In the process of widening the road for use by larger trucks, the company shoved rocks, dirt and other debris over the hillside toward the community, Abbott said. The “debris field” measured about one-half of an acre, Abbott said.

State officials ordered A&G to clean up the mess and stabilize the hillside, and cited the company with two different violations.

Just a week before the Mine No. 13 fatality, two A&G rock-hauling trucks collided at the company’s nearby Job No. 3 in Sawmill Hollow, records show. No one was injured, but both trucks were destroyed by fire, records show.

Company officials have not returned phone calls.


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