Coal Tattoo


We’re used to hearing the coal industry complain about permits … but this is a story about a different kind of permit — one that organizers of the Labor Day Friends of America rally didn’t get until after the fact.

It seems that a little more than a week before Monday’s event, organizers decided they needed something for the kids to do besides listen to speeches by Don Blankenship and Sean Hannity or music from Hank Jr. So, they turned to Thompson Catering, a Winchester, Ky., company that does a lot of business providing party tents and such for Massey Energy corporate events.

Thompson hauled in seven inflatable amusement rides — bouncers and slides — and also brought in a subcontractor to provide some sort of climbing wall.

But, it turns out that Thompson Catering’s rides had not been inspected or licensed in advance by the safety section at the West Virginia Division of Labor, as required by state law.  The rides started up anyway, but were temporarily shut down while the company scrambled around to get an inspection and a state permit — one that appears to have come too late to meet the legal requirements.

“We were in compliance with them,” Thompson Catering owner Tommy Thompson told me today. “It was just a little after the fact.”

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More questions about slurry safety

Vicki Smith over at The Associated Press has another story out today, with more questions about the safety of injecting coal slurry underground.

I’ve posted the story on the Gazette’s Mining the Mountains page here.

Here’s the bottom line:

Regulators in a handful of Appalachian states that let coal companies inject slurry into abandoned mines say they’re confident the practice is safe, but an Associated Press survey shows they lack scientific data to answer citizens who believe aquifers, water wells and their own health are at risk.

None of the five states contacted by AP has studied the chemical composition of slurry, a byproduct left when clay, sulfur and other impurities are removed from coal to make it burn more efficiently. For decades, slurry has been injected into abandoned, underground mines in Appalachia as a cheap alternative to building massive dams or filtration and drying systems.

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Preliminary report on coal mining death

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials have released their preliminary report on last week’s coal-mining death in West Virginia.

For a long while now,  I’ve suggested that MSHA post these reports on its website. But they’ve never taken me up on my suggestion. So I guess I’ll just do it for them. So here’s the preliminary report on the year’s first-coal mining death.

Here’s the obituary that appears in the Gazette for this miner, William Darrell Wade:

William Darrell Wade, 70, died February 6, 2009. At the time of his death he was a resident of Charleston.25282.jpg

He was loved and survived by his beloved wife of 47 years, Sandra Lee Herald Wade; and by his sons, Pastor Kevin Wade of Charleston, and Pastor Kelly Wade of Charleston; and by his daughter, Whitney Wade Seacrist of Bloomingrose. He was honored by two daughters-in-law, Pam and Lisa Wade; and one son-in-law, Rob Seacrist. He was blessed with grandchildren who cherished him, Casey Adkins, Jake Wade, Cody Wade, Russi Martin, Carrie Brake, Matt Seacrist, Darrell Wade, Aaron Wade and Savanna Wade and adored by Rachel Whitney Adkins and Grant Matthew Adkins, and great-grandchildren ages 5 and 3 who never failed to make “Pappa Smurf” smile. He was the brother of Shirley Kim of Beckley, Earl Wade of Stafford, Virginia and Martha Hope Cox of South Carolina.

He was preceded in death by his mother Sadie D. Wade of Culpepper, Va.

A service for Darrell Wade will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, February 12, at Wilson Funeral Home, Charleston. Mr. Wade will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Logan.

Friends will be received at the funeral home from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asks that donations be made in his name to the church his sons are founding and about which he took such pride, Victorious Living Christian Center, P.O. Box 505, Charleston, WV 25322

On line condolences may be sent to

Silo blast reminds us of coal dust dangers


Six workers were injured Tuesday when a coal-dust silo exploded at this We Energies power plant near Milwaukee.

Folks in coal country usually think of coal-dust explosions as something that happens underground, and as one of the biggest dangers that coal miners face every day on the job.

But reports in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Wisconsin Public Radio explain that Tuesday’s blast was different. The silo, one of nine at the plant, is used to collect coal dust that accumulates from coal that is brought to the plant by train. The dust is compacted and, like coal itself, is burned for fuel. The Journal-Sentinel’s coverage included a cool graphic of the silo and how it is used.

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New mine death reports

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration this week issued reports on two of last year’s 29 coal-mining deaths, including one that occurred at CONSOL Energy’s Robinson Run Mine in Marion County, W.Va.

Underground mine locomotive operator Gary A. Hoffman, 55, of Rivesville, was killed on June 5, 2008, when he lost control of a 20-ton locomotive and two flat car. He was delivering roof-support “cribs” into the mine, located near Mannington. Hoffman apparently fell, jumped, or was knocked off the locomotive

MSHA investigators reported that Hoffman “was unable to maintain control of the locomotive and loaded flat cars due to condensation and moisture on the rails.”

Previously, the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training cited CONSOL, saying that a sand application system — meant to reduce the moisture that naturally builds up on track systems in underground mines — wasn’t working properly on Hoffman’s locomotive. State investigators reported that a “drop tube” on that system was plugged:

“This sander is required for the safe operation of the locomotive. Evidence indicates that this violation contributed directly to the accident.”

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