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Alpha cited in March mining death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary did not ensure proper support of underground mine roof and walls in part of a Fayette County mine where a worker died in March, state investigators have concluded.

Alpha's Kingston Resources was cited with 45 safety violations in the investigation of the March 10 mine wall collapse that killed 34-year-old section foreman Jeremy Sigler of Pool at the Kingston No. 2 Mine near Mossy.

The state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training citations included one that the state classified as deserving a "special assessment" -- a fine of $10,000 -- for not controlling the mine wall, or rib, in the area where Sigler was killed.

"This violates a health or safety provision or safety rule and is of a serious nature and involves a fatality," state inspectors said in a report made public Monday.

Among other things, state inspectors found that, in the area where the fatal accident occurred, Kingston was taking larger cuts of coal than allowed by a state-approved plan.

State officials declined Monday to make public copies of five other citations issued to individual Alpha mine managers that state inspectors alleged did not conduct proper company safety examinations at the Kingston operation.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said that the Alpha mine managers had not yet been served with copies of the citations and the state would made them public once that had occurred.

Alpha spokesman Ted Pile did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the state's report.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials have not yet issued a report on their separate investigation of Sigler's death.

Both of the coal-mining deaths in West Virginia so far in 2012 occurred at Alpha operations. Last week, 57-year-old Clyde Dolin was killed at Alpha subsidiary Independence Coal's Liberty Processing plant in Boone County.

Independence Coal was among the operations that Alpha inherited when it purchased Massey Energy in June 2011, while Kingston was already an Alpha subsidiary.

Earlier this month, MSHA released a report that cited a long list of safety problems in the death of a worker at a Virginia surface mine operated by an Alpha contractor. MSHA inspectors issued six enforcement orders that concluded the company demonstrated an unwarranted failure to comply with safety rules

Alpha officials have promoted their company safety program, "Running Right," as the solution to improving health-and-safety performance, especially at the former Massey operations it purchased nearly a year ago.

"Keeping Alpha's employees safe and healthy is the right thing to do and it is absolutely critical to our success," Alpha said in its new corporate sustainability report. "Running Right is the cornerstone of our culture of health and safety."Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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