40th U.S. coal miner killed on the job this year

BECKLEY — A Greenbrier County man is dead after an accident Thursday at a Massey Energy mine — the nation’s 40th coal miner to die on the job this year, authorities said.

Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, said the 60-year-old electrician from Charmco was struck by a shuttle car. His identity was not available Thursday.

The accident occurred at White Buck Coal Co.’s underground Pocahontas Mine in Greenbrier County, Fitzwater said. The mine has a Leivasy address.

The incident was reported around 8:30 a.m. Thursday and remains under investigation, Fitzwater said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and co-workers,” Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said.

The death brings the toll at Richmond, Va.-based Massey’s mines to 31 in 2010. An explosion at its Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County killed 29 men April 5 — the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in 40 years. In May, a miner died of an infection a week after he was pinned between a piece of heavy equipment and a wall at Massey’s Ruby Energy mine in Mingo County.

Nationally, 40 coal miners have died on the job this year, said Jesse Lawder, spokesman for federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The Pocahontas Mine is among Massey’s smallest operations. It employs 80 people and produced 84,239 tons of coal last year. Massey is one of the nation’s largest coal companies and produces about 40 million tons a year from mines in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Virginia.

MSHA has cited the Pocahontas Mine more than 160 times this year, according to the agency’s records. About one-third of the violations are listed as serious.

White Buck was fined $50,000 in 2007 after pleading guilty to a federal crime. The company admitted willfully violating a mandatory safety standard — a misdemeanor.

Earlier in the day, legislation that would give MSHA greater authority to address violations was introduced in Congress, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said.

“The Pocahontas Mine is another in an ever growing list of mines operated by Massey Energy with poor safety records,” Solis said. “This tragedy reminds us why these reforms are needed.”



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