MSHA Issues Investigation Report on Kentucky Mine Death

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued its investigative report on a June explosives accident that claimed the life of a 21-year-old Kentucky miner and injured two others.

MSHA investigators discovered that seven serious violations by Cody Mining Co. Inc., at its Number 1 Mine near McDowell, Ky., contributed to the accident, six of which were considered an "unwarrantable failure" to comply with federal law. They also cited the company for 64 non-contributing violations of mine safety rules found during the accident investigation. Fifty-five of these were considered unwarrantable failure violations.

"This was one of the most poorly managed and operated coal mines where safety is concerned that I've seen during more than 30 years in the field of mine safety," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This company recklessly disregarded rules intended to protect workers on the job. We intend to pursue this case to the fullest extent allowable by law."

Each violation cited by accident investigators carries a civil penalty of up to $60,000. Penalties will be determined at a later date.

Key findings of the MSHA investigation include:

  • Poor mining practices at the site resulted in excessive entry and crosscut widths, undersized pillars, misaligned openings and other unlawful conditions.
  • The mine's preshift examinations failed to identify obvious hazardous conditions, some of which existed for extended periods of time.
  • Investigators found that the accident scene had been altered when a non-permissible drill was moved from the accident site.
  • Detonation of an excessive amount of explosives was a contributing factor in the accident.
  • A quantity of substance found in at the accident site in a clear plastic bag was identified by the Kentucky State Police laboratory as marijuana.

In addition, Lauriski said that MSHA has examined the activities of agency personnel assigned to inspect the Cody Mine and has determined there were unexcused deficiencies in their performance. "We have taken appropriate action with regard to those deficiencies," Lauriski said.

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