CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Bluefield coal miner was charged this week with faking a foreman's certification when he performed safety checks at four Southern West Virginia mining operations over an 18-month period, court records show.
Craig Belcher, 36, was charged in a four-count grand jury indictment with four counts of providing a false statement in U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration documents.
If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the four counts.
Belcher's case is the latest in a series of federal criminal charges and state licensing actions brought against miners who pretended to be certified foremen or lied about required safety examinations at mining operations.
The charges against Belcher allege he faked having a foreman's certificate between January 2009 and July 2010 while working for Spartan Mining Co.'s Road Fork No. 51 Mine in Wyoming County, Frasure Creek Mining's Mine No. 15 in Fayette County, Pay Car Mining's Mine No. 58 in McDowell County, and Double Bonus Coal's Mine No. 65 in Wyoming County.
At the time, Spartan Mining was a Massey Energy subsidiary. Frasure Creek was owned by Essar, while Pay Car and Double Bonus were controlled by Mechel OAO.
The indictment alleges that Belcher signed pre-shift and on-shift reports indicating that he had properly examined particular sections of each mining operation. It further alleges that Belcher was not certified as a foreman when those reports were completed. It also alleges Belcher falsified foreman's certificate numbers on the safety reports, using license numbers that did not belong to him.
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.