Coal Tattoo

Another W.Va. coal miner dies …

More bad news this morning from the coalfields of West Virginia:  James Robie Erwin, 55, of Delbarton, died at about 6 a.m. from injuries received in a May 10 incident at Massey Energy subsidiary Spartan Mining Co.’s Ruby Energy Mine in Mingo County.

According to the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, Erwin was a continuous miner operator and the incident involved him becoming pinned between a shuttle car and the mine wall.

That makes 36 coal miners dead on the job in 2010, including 31 in West Virginia — the most in our state since 1980, when 33 miners were killed.

As for the Ruby Energy Mine, Ellen Smith at Mine Safety and Health News had written for The Huffington Post that this operation might have been “even more unsafe” than Upper Big Branch.

In its big post-disaster inspection sweep, MSHA cited Ruby Energy for 29 mine safety and health violations, including 12 that inspectors considered serious and substantial.

Spartan Mining paid MSHA $142,500 in fines following the February 2004 death of miner Kenneth Adrian McNeely at the Ruby Energy Mine. MSHA investigators concluded that the company had not protected McNeeley from potential electrical hazards. The MSHA report described the incident this way:

During a mine-wide power outage, the victim and the continuous mining machine operator were repairing the damaged area of a continuous mining machine trailing cable. While the victim prepared the third and final power phase to be spliced together, electrical power was restored to the underground mine and the electrical circuit breaker was closed causing a fatal electrical shock. The visual disconnecting device, or cable plug, for the continuous mining machine trailing cable was not disconnected, locked-out, or suitably tagged from its receptacle on the power center.

And MSHA investigators concluded:

The continuous mining machine trailing cable was not adequately protected to prevent damage while moving the continuous mining machine. The accident occurred because management did not ensure that persons were protected against potential electrical hazardous after the left continuous mining machine damaged the trailing cable. The section foreman did not direct the section electrician to remove the trailing cable to the out-of-service mode (disconnect, lock and tag) until troubleshooting, testing and restoring the trailing cable to a safe condition was completed. The certified person performing electrical work did not disconnect the trailing cable plug from the circuit breaker receptacle, lock the disconnect device and tag. The accident occurred when the unlocked and untagged trailing cable was re-energized while repairs were being performed and without first ensuring that all persons were in the clear of the cable.