Coal Tattoo

Another W.Va. coal miner dies on the job

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The bad news this morning comes from Greenbrier County, W.Va., where a 27-year-old coal miner was killed on the job. The accident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. today at White Buck Coal Co.’s Pocahontas Mine near Rupert. This is a former Massey Energy operation now controlled by Alpha Natural Resources.

According to state officials, the miner was caught between a scoop and the continuous mining machine — a type of accident that is becoming all too common in the coal-mining industry. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the Obama administration to move on two regulatory proposals that would help prevent these sorts of fatal accidents.

UPDATED: State officials have identified the miner who was killed as Steve O’Dell of Mt. Nebo. He had three years of mining experience and was a certified electricial.

UPDATED 2: The obituary for Mr. O’Dell appeared in Monday’s Gazette and is online here. I call your attention especially to this part:

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions should be made to a trust fund to be established at BB&T Bank, 815 Northside Drive, Summersville, WV 26651, for their first expected child, due in December.

It’s also interesting to note that the White Buck mines were cited earlier this week by federal prosecutors when they brought new charges against a former Massey executive who is cooperating in their investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. Five years ago, White Buck and two of its employees were prosecuted for criminal mine safety violations, but federal officials at the time said the problems went no higher into the Massey organization. Now, prosecutors allege there was a broad conspiracy at White Buck and other Massey mines between 2000 and 2010 to violate mine safety regulations and cover up the resulting hazards to workers.

There was previously a fatal accident at the White Buck Pocahontas Mine in July 2010.

This is the 18th U.S. coal-mining death in 2012, and the 6th in West Virginia — with half of those West Virginia deaths occurring at Alpha Natural Resources operations (see here and here for reports on the two previous Alpha deaths).

UPDATED: We’re also reporting on the Gazette website that three miners have been hurt in an impoundment accident at CONSOL Energy’s Robinson Run operation in Harrison County.