According to The Associated Press, St. Louis-based Peabody called the death “unacceptable” and expressed sympathy to the victim’s family and friends. MSHA considers Willow Lake a problem mine. In June, the agency was granted an expedited hearing before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. MSHA had fined Peabody subsidiary Big Ridge Inc. $230,000 for violations found at the mine since late 2008. Peabody insisted it had reviewed all processes at Willow Lake and citations were down 17% this year.
Willow Lake is a large underground mine. It employs about 450 people and produces about 3.4 million tons of coal annually. It was also one of the 57 coal mines targeted in a surprise inspection blitz of problem operations following the Upper Big Branch disaster.