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Archive for June, 2012

Safety Advocate Asks Kentucky to Pull Foremens’ Papers

Posted by Ellen Smith on June 1, 2012

Great reporting by the Courier Journal on MSHA’s May 16 blitz of K&D Mining Inc.’s Mine No. 17 in Highsplint, KY. Inspectors found egregious ventilation violations, coal dust accumulations, water sprays not working … the list goes on (see story here).

K&D’s owners, Jack H Ealy, Ralph Napier and John D North are no strangers to the pages of Mine Safety and Health News because of the the continuing delinquent MSHA penalties from the mines they control. Napier and North have $958,878 in delinquent penalties that they seem to have no intention of paying sine their fines date back to March 11,2006. Ealy’s delinquent penalties total $756,875 as of March 31, with delinquencies going back to July 1, 2007. And of course, Napier and North have the dubious distinction of being the owners of the Kentucky Darby Mine where Amon “Cotton” Brock, Jimmy Lee, Roy Middleton, George William Petra, and Paris Thomas, Jr. were killed May 20, 2006 by a methane explosion due to improperly constructed mine seals in that mine. One miner, Paul Ledford, survived.

Meanwhile, mine safety advocate Tony Oppegard wants the state of Kentucky to institute disciplinary proceedings (see letter below).

Dear Mr. Lewis —
I have reviewed all of the citations/orders issued by MSHA in the matter referred to in the newspaper article below. This is to request that OMSL, at a minimum, file disciplinary charges against foremen Hershel Napier and Phillip Wiggington and attempt to have their foreman’s cards revoked. The dangerous conditions that existed at K and D Mining’s No. 17 mine – which jeopardized the safety and health of every miner working there – should not be tolerated by OMSL.
In addition, this is to request that OMSL consider filing disciplinary charges against Ralph Napier, the mine owner, per 805 KAR 8:040. It is my understanding that Mr. Napier was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the mine. Certainly OMSL could subpoena Mr. Napier and others – per KRS 352.180(8) – to determine the extent of his knowledge regarding these outrageous and unacceptable conditions.

TONY OPPEGARD
Attorney-at-Law
P.O. Box 22446
Lexington, KY 40522

Mining is an important asset to our economy, and we must value it and the workers. Mining can be done safely — just look at Energy West’s Deer Creek Mine. Let the safe operators mine, but I’ve lost any tolerence for the injuries and deaths I’ve written about over the last 26 years.

We can have our privately-owned vehicle towed for too many parking or driving violations. Why can’t we have laws that shut down these mines? We can use MSHA’s numbers to directly correlate mines with egregious violations and delinquent penalties.

No operator or controller should be permitted to continue to mine if they have any delinquent penalties, and no payment plan with MSHA. The penalties should be no less severe for these operators, than for drivers with too many tickets.

It’s hardly just or fair to have one set of operators who comply with our health and safety laws, and others who refuse.

There are simply no excuses.

Update:

This arrived after the post. From Freddie Lewis, of the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing:

Mr. Oppegard:
My plans are to review the violations that can be obtained from MSHA that was written at the above named mine. If there are any charges we can file, we will take appropriate action. We will not tolerate these types of mining practices and unsafe behaviors on our coal mines.
Thank you for your concern,
Freddie Lewis
Executive Director
Office of Mine Safety Licensing

It’s a step in the right direction.

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