Coal Tattoo

Coal mining deaths continue


Photo from U.S. MSHA / On May 18, a miner was killed at the Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County when his head hit the mine roof and/or a roof support.

While I was out of pocket last week, another West Virginia coal miner was killed on the job.

The cryptic statement from the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training provided little insight into what happened:

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training confirms a fatal incident occurred Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 8:47 p.m., at the Rockwell Mining LLC, Gateway Eagle Mine in Boone County. Preliminary information indicates Rodney S. Osborne of Artie, WV, was operating a continuous miner at the time of the incident.  Mr. Osborne was a continuous miner operator at the mine; he was 32 years old.

Inspectors from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training have started their investigation. The mine is idle at this time. 

Officials from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration were more helpful, reporting that Osborne was “fatally injured when he was pinned between the cutter head of a remote-controlled continuous mining machine and the coal rib. The victim was backing the continuous mining machine from the working face when the accident occurred.

The on Monday, down in Alabama, another coal miner was killed on the job.  Local media identified him as Marius Shepherd of Jasper. The preliminary information from MSHA described what happened at the Oak Grove Mine this way:

Two locomotives were transporting supplies into the mine on three rail cars.  While traveling in an inby direction, the locomotives lost control of the load.  The victim was riding on the front locomotive along with a motorman.  The victim was thrown from or jumped from the locomotive and suffered fatal injuries.  An inspector was at the mine when the accident occurred and …  the investigation is ongoing.

It’s worth noting that the controller of the Oak Grove Mine is ERP Compliant Fuels LLC. That company — formed by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, which has been buying up troubled coal properties in the hopes of using profits for tree-planting reclamation that would help fight climate change — also owns the Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County, where a miner was killed last month.

The Alabama death was the 9th coal-mining death so far in 2017 — pushing the total above last year’s record low of 8 U.S. coal-mining deaths.

In West Virginia, there have been 5 coal-mining deaths this year, the most since 2014.  When last week’s West Virginia death was made public, there were mournful statements issued by Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and by Gov. Jim Justice.  None of the statements said anything about taking any actions to prevent the death toll from going higher. The Justice administration hasn’t publicly announced any new state mine safety initiatives, and the budget that the governor is going to allow to become law would cut the state’s mine safety budget below what Justice had recommended.