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Marion County coal miner dies; 33rd in W.Va. this year

Read more at Coal Tattoo

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia coal miner was killed Thursday when part of a mine wall fell on him at a Consol Energy operation in Marion County, state and federal officials said.

The incident occurred at Consol's Loveridge Mine, near Fairview, Marion County.

Jessie Adkins, 39, of Belington, is the 42nd coal miner to die on the job nationwide this year. West Virginia accounts for 33 of those deaths, including 29 that occurred in an April 5 explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

Adkins is survived by a wife and two teenage children, company officials said.

The latest death occurred on the same day that U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Carte Goodwin, both D-W.Va., introduced the Senate version of a mine safety reform bill. Similar legislation already has passed the House Education and Labor Committee.

Hoy Murphy, spokesman for the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, said that Adkins, a roof bolter, was pinned against machinery by a large block of coal that fell from the mine wall.

State officials put the time of the incident at 11:55 a.m., while the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said it occurred at 11 a.m.

Loveridge is a large underground mine that produced 6 million tons of coal last year with more than 560 workers. Hourly employees at the mine are represented by the United Mine Workers union.

Earlier Thursday, Consol CEO J. Brett Harvey had said his goal for the Pittsburgh-based company was to have no injuries or illnesses in its mines.

"We are committed to zero," Harvey told industry stock analysts in a quarterly conference call. "Our people are committed to zero. Zero is a real number, and we intend to drive the company toward that goal.

"We don't believe we are perfect," Harvey said, "but we believe we can achieve a perfect place when it comes to the safety of individuals."

In the wake of the deaths at nonunion Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine, UMW officials have bragged about the safety record at unionized operations, especially those run by Consol. Union President Cecil Roberts testified to Congress just two weeks ago that of the mining deaths so far this year, "not one was at a union operation."

Roberts said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon, "The hearts and prayers of the entire UMWA membership are with the family of the miner who died today in an incident at the Loveridge Mine in West Virginia. Along with his co-workers at the mine, we mourn this tragic loss.

"Representatives of the UMWA Local Union 9909 Health and Safety Committee are working with federal and state authorities, as well as the company, to determine the exact cause of this incident," Roberts said. "International union safety experts are on their way to the mine to participate in the investigation. We will find out what happened here, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to keep it from happening again."

In 2008 and 2009, at least six miners were killed on the job at Consol operations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The most recent fatality at Loveridge was in February 1996, when part of a mine wall collapsed onto miner Glen E. Mathess. MSHA investigators concluded that Consol had not properly evaluated the mine wall and roof to remove loose materials. The company paid $7,032 in fines, records show.

During the previous 10 years, the Loveridge Mine had an accident rate that was better than the national average every year, but its rate for the first quarter of 2010 was slightly worse than the national figures, according to MSHA data.

Two weeks ago, as part of the mine's ongoing quarterly review, MSHA inspectors cited the Loveridge operation for two violations of rules meant to protect miners from roof and wall collapses, according to agency records.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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