August 14, 2008

Barbour ICG Mine Shut After Incident Injures 3

By Ken Ward Jr.

Three workers were injured Tuesday morning in the second serious accident in less than three months involving trainee miners at an International Coal Group operation in Barbour County, officials said.

State and federal inspectors issued orders that essentially shut down the operation. Ronald Wooten, director of the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said his agency's "control order" on the mine would not be lifted until he is convinced ICG's miner apprentice program is safe.

"I'm pretty disappointed about this situation," Wooten said Tuesday afternoon. "I am not happy."

Tuesday's accident happened at about 1:30 a.m. at ICG subsidiary Wolf Run Mining's Sentinel Mine near Philippi, said Jama Jarrett, a spokeswoman for Wooten.

Three workers, including two trainee miners or "red hats," were hit by a piece of mining equipment called a scoop, said company spokesman Ira Gamm. The third injured worker was an experienced miner who was working with the other two employees, Gamm said.

Two of the workers were treated and released, and the other was still being treated at Ruby Memorial Hospital, state officials said.

Last month, state investigators cited ICG, alleging the company did not properly supervise an 18-year-old trainee miner, Adam Lanham, who was run over by a scoop and killed on May 30 at the Sentinel Mine.

State officials cited Wolf Run with a contributing violation in Lanham's death and also issued an "imminent danger order" regarding the operation's supervision of apprentice miners. State inspectors were concerned because the foreman who was supposed to be supervising Lanham was operating the scoop at the same time.

"The practice of a foreman or experienced miner operating mining equipment, while having charge of an apprentice miner, does not ensure that the apprentice is effectively supervised with regard to safety practices, nor is instructed in safe mining practices," the state agency said.

In Tuesday's accident, the operator of the scoop was not working on the same task as the injured miners, and was not responsible for their supervision, Gamm said.

After Lanham's death, Wooten said he was concerned that a significant number of workers at ICG mines were apprentice miners from a company called Mine Temp LLC.

Wooten said ICG was developing a new training program. Gamm said that program "is in its early stages of implementation."

"Under this program, small groups of apprentice miners receive specialized course training followed by hands-on, supervised training in various aspects of underground mining jobs," Gamm said in an e-mail message.

In West Virginia, new miners must receive a certain amount of training, then work under the supervision of experienced miners and foremen. Federal law also requires training for new miners, and periodic retraining of experienced workers in the coal industry.

After 12 miners died in the January 2006 explosion at ICG's Sago Mine, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the company for at least four training violations. ICG is appealing $28,000 in fines levied by MSHA for the noncontributing violations.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at [email protected] or 348-1702.

Originally published by Staff writer.

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