CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal prosecutors and mine safety officials are continuing to closely examine events at an Alpha Natural Resources mine in Wyoming County where a burned conveyor belt prompted the largest inspection sweep ever of a single company's mines.
Three-dozen Alpha operations were cited with a total of 226 violations in the one-day inspection blitz that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted May 23.
Six mines targeted by MSHA received no citations, but one of those was no longer mining and others had been shut down by a federal "imminent danger" order just one day before the agency's inspection sweep.
The incidents came as Alpha reached Friday's one-year anniversary of its $7 billion buyout of Massey Energy, and just days before the June 6 due date for it to report to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin on its progress improving safety at the former Massey mines.
Goodwin's office and MSHA were looking most closely at the incident two weeks ago at Alpha's Road Fork No. 51 Mine, where inspectors alleged the company wrongly did not evacuate the mine after miners encountered thick smoke from a burned conveyor belt.
Alpha had downplayed that incident in a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying there was no fire and later telling the media company officials responded appropriately.
But Bruce Stanley, a lawyer for the widows of two miners -- Don Bragg and Ellery "Elvis" Hatfield -- who died in a conveyor belt fire at Massey's Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in January 2006, disagreed with the company's assessment.
"I suppose if they don't die on your watch, the lesson isn't learned," Stanley said Friday.