CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At least two other men face losing their coal-mining certifications after they were caught using allegedly forged foremen's licenses while working for Massey Energy, according to state records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The state Coal Mine Safety Board of Appeals temporarily suspended mining certifications for the two men -- Craig W. Belcher and Scott E. Jeffrey -- but has yet to hold formal hearings or make final decisions in either case.
Those cases remain pending, while one former worker at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine had his mining certification suspended for a year for using a forged foreman's license.
And in the last week, three miners at other companies in West Virginia have been charged with federal crimes after they allegedly used forged foreman's licenses when they conducted dozens of safety checks in three different counties.
Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said his agency would be looking closely at any information about safety examinations being conducted by workers using forged certifications.
"We should be concerned about that anytime we see it," Main said in an interview Wednesday. "We should be investigating it to see what's going on there. If people are engaging in illegal conduct, then we should be taking action on that."
Main said MSHA's actions could include holding mine operators responsible if they are not taking adequate steps to ensure qualified and licensed foremen conduct required safety examinations.
Earlier this week, the Gazette reported on the case of Thomas Harrah, who was stripped of his certification to work in West Virginia coal mines after he admitted using a forged foreman's license while working at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine and another Massey operation.
Harrah managed to get away with it for nearly two years, and conducted at least 228 pre-shift, on-shift and conveyor belt safety examinations at Upper Big Branch between January 2008 and August 2009, according to state records.
Shane Harvey, Massey's general counsel, said last week that his company had "learned a valuable lesson" from the incident involving Harrah.
"We quickly took steps afterward to verify the accuracy of all of our miners' certifications and we will continue to be more vigilant in this area in the future," Harvey said. "We would be in favor of any efforts that could be undertaken to improve the ability of operators or state or federal officials to catch or prevent such behavior."
The cases involving Belcher and Jeffrey both occurred prior to Harrah being caught by state officials and by Massey, according to state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training records.