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Vol. 74/No. 19      May 17, 2010

Two young workers are killed
in nonunion Kentucky mine
(front page)
Two coal miners were killed in a roof collapse at the nonunion Dotiki mine in western Kentucky April 28. Their deaths come three weeks after 29 miners lost their lives in a massive explosion at Massey Energy-owned Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, and two days after miner Jama Jarrett died, after being crushed by equipment in another West Virginia mine.

Those killed at the Dotiki mine are Justin Travis, 27, and Michael Carter, 28. The mine is operated by Webster County Coal, a subsidiary of Alliance Resource Partners of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company, which employs 367 workers, has received nearly 3,000 safety violation citations from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) since 2005, with 968 of them considered “significant and substantial.”

In 2009 the mine owners were cited 649 times. For the first four months of this year Dotiki bosses were written up 214 times. In its latest inspection at the end of March, MSHA reported at least 10 violations of federal roof-control standards, reports the Charleston Gazette.

In another development, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) will play a role in the investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion. At least two miners requested that the union represent them in the probe even though the mine is nonunion. No one will gain access to the mine for at least a month because of the dangerous conditions there.

Congressional hearings were held April 27 on the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Among those providing testimony critical of the company was Jeff Harris, a miner and former Massey employee. “I quit my job with Massey because I couldn’t take the poor conditions in the mine,” he stated. “Nobody should have to fear for their life just to earn a paycheck.”

In a statement Massey said that it had won three safety awards from MSHA last year and claimed its accident record was better than the average underground mine.

In 2006, 12 miners were killed in an explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia. The following year MSHA “added 10 criteria that inspectors had to meet before a mine could be shut down for a ‘pattern of violations,’” reported Bloomberg News.
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