The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released the findings of its investigation into a fatal accident in May at Patriot Coal’s Brody Mine in Boone County, WV.
MSHA issued three citations to Patriot’s Brody Mining LLC for serious violations related to the May “outburst” that killed two miners.
The citations allege Patriot’s Brody Mining LLC did not protect miners from hazardous conditions, did not report a similar incident that happened three days before the deaths (May 9) and allowed the destruction of evidence about that earlier incident.
Kevin Stricklin, MSHA’s coal administrator, told The Charleston Gazette that the agency’s investigation showed the deaths at Brody were almost certainly preventable if the company had taken appropriate actions.
“I can’t be 100 percent sure, but everything I’ve seen would indicate that neither of these individuals would have died,” Stricklin said in an interview. “If [company officials] would have reacted it would definitely have decreased the chances of fatalities occurring.”
On May 12, miners Eric D. Legg and Gary P. Hensley were killed when a coal outburst occurred at Brody. At the time of the fatal incident the mine near Wharton was engaged in retreat mining.
The West Virginia state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, released its report on the Brody deaths a week earlier and citied the company both for a violation related to the incident that killed Legg and Hensley and for two violations related to the May 9 incident.
In its enforcement actions, MSHA cited Brody Mining for failing to control the mine walls, or ribs, to protect miners from “the hazardous conditions associated with a coal burst.” MSHA said that Brody “failed to recognize a precursor burst” and did not “take adequate corrective actions to protect the miners” after the earlier incident.
“The accident occurred because the mine operator failed to recognize areas with potential [outburst] conditions, and to develop and implement a method of mining suitable to mine safely and control those conditions,” MSHA said in its report.
The May 9 incident involved a similar coal burst, in which a miner was knocked to the floor and buried up to his waist in coal.
MSHA alleged that Brody did not, as required by federal law, report that May 9 incident to regulators.
“By not reporting this accident, the mine operator deprived MSHA the opportunity to investigate the accident and also failed to determine the root cause of the accident,” MSHA said.
Also, MSHA said that Brody “allowed the destruction of evidence that would have contributed to the investigation” of the May 9 incident. Such an investigation, MSHA said, “would have prohibited mining activity in the affected area until MSHA permitted the operator to resume normal mining activities.”