In West Virginia, the state requires training and certification for underground and surface mine workers. Mine foremen must take separate training and obtain a separate license. Mine foremen not only supervise other workers, they also perform important safety checks and sign required reports meant to document that any problems discovered are corrected before miners go to work.
Generally, state officials handle the licensing and certification of foremen. But federal citations -- and potentially criminal charges -- can be involved if foremen who used forged certificates sign mine safety reports indicating that they are properly licensed when they really are not.
In Belcher's case, state officials allege he used a forged license to get a job as a foreman at Massey subsidiary Spartan Mining in Wyoming County in January 2009. Belcher performed mine safety examinations for Spartan from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 and on Jan. 27, before the company caught him and fired him on Jan. 28, according to the state records.
Spartan manager Joey Athey and foreman Steve Campbell reported the incident to state officials, who then sought to strip Belcher of his certification to work as a rank-and-file miner.
State officials allege that in November 2008 they discovered that Jeffrey had used a forged mine electrician's card to get a job with Massey's Power Mountain Processing operation in Nicholas County.
In an indictment filed last week, a federal grand jury in Charleston indicted miner Neil A. Hasen for allegedly performing five safety examinations at Big River Mining in Mason County while using another worker's foreman's certification.
And on Tuesday, a grand jury in Elkins indicted two miners for allegedly performing hundreds of safety examinations using forged foreman's licenses.
Luke W. Pugh of Jane Lew was named in a 37-count indictment that alleges he lied on safety examination forms at Carter Roag Coal Co.'s Pleasant Hill Mine in Randolph County -- saying he was a licensed foreman when he wasn't -- and then lied to a federal investigator about his qualifications. If convicted, Pugh faces a maximum sentence of 180 years in jail and a $610,000 fine.
In a separate proceeding, state officials alleged that Pugh completed mine safety examinations at least 541 times between June 2007 and April 2009 using a license number that was not his own. During that time period, a miner who was working on Pugh's crew was killed and Pugh used his phony license number when investigators interviewed him, state officials alleged.
Chad J. Farrell, 39, of Nettie, was charged in a 30-count indictment that alleged he lied about having a foreman's license when he performed safety examinations in 2008 and 2009 at Brooks Run Mining's Poplar Ridge Mine in Webster County. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison and a $300,000 fine.
State officials had alleged that Farrell conducted more than 500 mine safety examinations using someone else's foreman's card between September 2008 and June 2009, records show. In a settlement with the state, Farrell agreed to permanently surrender his mining certification.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.