Mark Edwards, who ran a shuttle car at Upper Big Branch, told investigators the company cut back from two continuous miners to one such machine on days when workers were wearing dust pumps.
"They didn't care about coal that day," Edwards testified. "Any other day, we're running two miners. It was so dusty down there it was awful.
"I thought, man, something isn't right with this," Edwards said. "And I think there was -- I mean, I would hear the boss tell the miner man, stay back out of the entry. Don't go up there where the dust is. Stay back."
Miner Bruce Vickers had worked at Upper Big Branch since 1995. When he would wear a dust pump, mine managers told him to sit in the mine's fresh air intake tunnel, and let somebody else do his work, Vickers told investigators.
"Well, if they can ... keep me in the intake, in fresh air, then that's what they'll do," Vickers said.
Vickers said he testified in 1998 to a federal grand jury that asked him about dust pump falsification at Upper Big Branch.
Court records and government documents don't show any charges ever being brought.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.
Our stories about black lung were jointly reported by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR News as part of "Hard Labor," an occasional series on health, safety and economic threats to U.S. workers. Additional reporting was provided by Charleston Gazette staff writer Ken Ward Jr.
Read more in Monday's Gazette and on the CPI website, http://www.iwatchnews.org/.Hear more about black lung Monday on NPR's All Things Considered and Tuesday on NPR's Morning Edition. Additional NPR stories are available at www.npr.org.