Coal Tattoo

The Kentucky Darby Disaster, May 20, 2006

Today is the 7th anniversary of the May 20, 2006, explosion that killed five miners at Kentucky Darby LLC’s Darby No. 1 Mine in Harlan County, Ky. The Kentucky Darby Disaster claimed the lives of coal miners Amon Brock, Jimmy Lee, Roy Middleton, George Petra, and Paris Thomas. Injured in the disaster was miner Paul Ledford.

It’s worth noting that, despite the Sago Mine Disaster on Jan. 2, 2006, and the Aracoma Alma fire on Jan. 19 — claiming a total of 14 lives — Congress didn’t pass the MINER Act until after five more miners died at Kentucky Darby.

In its report on the disaster, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded:

An explosion occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. on May 20, 2006, inby the A Left No. 3 Seal. The explosion resulted in the immediate deaths of two miners who were located at the seal. Three of four miners evacuating from the B Left Section succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning with smoke and soot inhalation.

The accident occurred because the operator did not observe basic mine safety practices and because critical safety standards were violated. Mine management failed to ensure that proper seal construction procedures were utilized in the building of the seals at the A Left Section. Mine management also failed to ensure that safe work procedures were used while employees attempted to make corrections to an improperly constructed seal. Furthermore, mine management failed to adequately train miners in escapeway routes and proper SCSR usage.

Earlier this month, the Courier-Journal in Louisville reported:

Nearly a year after it was fined more than $800,000 for safety violations, K and D Mining Inc. — run by two operators of the Kentucky Darby Mine where five miners died in 2006 — has essentially disappeared and none of the fines have been paid, federal records show.

It’s the latest example of how the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s penalty process is too slow and cumbersome to stop operators from putting miners in danger and fails to deter companies that ignore fines, mine safety advocates say.

“The process of collecting fines from scofflaw operators — rogue operators — is still broken,” said Wes Addington, deputy director of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a nonprofit firm in Whitesburg, Ky., that represents miners and their families on mine safety and environmental issues. “It really is disappointing.”

The story also noted:

The Courier-Journal reported in April 2012 that Napier and North had not paid nearly $700,000 in civil fines and interest fees for safety violations at Kentucky Darby, which closed.

And by the way, yesterday was the 111th anniversary of the Fraterville Mine Disaster, which killed 216, and the 85th anniversary of the Mather Mine Disaster, which killed 195.