Continuous miner operator Eric Legg and roof bolter operator Gary Hensley were killed May 12 at Patriot Coal’s Brody No. 1 mine in Boone County, West Virginia, after a large coal pillar burst while crews were retreat mining in the Eagle seam.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said that the pillar burst caused an ejection of coal into the mine entry, filling it to within 30 in. of the roof. Investigators added that a pillar burst occurred in the same section of the mine May 9, approximately 100 ft away, which the company never reported as required.
The agency determined in its report that the accident occurred because the mine operator failed to recognize and anticipate the potential for pillar burst conditions and did not develop and implement a method to mine safely and control potential pillar burst conditions.
“Furthermore, mine management took insufficient action to investigate the rib burst accident that occurred three days earlier, and it failed to address hazardous conditions that caused the rib burst. Management’s failure to address the hazards associated with rib burst conditions resulted in continued exposure to those hazards and led to Mr. Legg and Mr. Hensley’s deaths,” the MSHA report said.
MSHA also issued the mine three citations for failure to support or otherwise control the mine ribs in order to protect miners from being exposed to the hazardous conditions associated with a coal burst; failure to recognize a precursor burst May 9; failure to take adequate corrective actions to protect miners from hazardous rib conditions; failure to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the hazardous conditions; failure to immediately report the May 9 event; and failure to preserve the May 9 accident site.
In October 2013, MSHA confirmed that the Brody mine had been put on notice of a pattern of violations (POV) under the Mine Act; since receiving the POV notice, the operator has reduced its significant and substantial violation rate by 53%.
Patriot has discontinued retreat mining activities at Brody and discontinued all mining in the eastern side of the mine where the fatal accident occurred, investigators added.
The producer said it is still evaluating the agency’s investigation as well as a recently released state report on the incident, but so far it does not agree with the findings.
“We believe that both reports omit key eyewitness testimony and other evidence from the investigation, and mischaracterize certain accounts of the events leading up to and including the tragic accident of May 12,” the company said. “Most notably, the agencies’ characterization of a rib roll incident on May 9 as a violent mine outburst and a precursor of the devastating May 12 accident contradicts sworn testimony from the majority of eyewitnesses.
“Brody intends to vigorously challenge the citations and orders that were issued by both agencies in conjunction with the investigation. We look forward to presenting a full account of the events in this matter in the appropriate legal forum.”