Workers Raise Safety Concerns About Kentucky Mine Where 2 Killed

By | June 3, 2010

The United Mine Workers of America are raising new concerns about the safety of a western Kentucky coal mine where two men were killed by a rock fall in April.

Steve Earle, a regional vice president for UMWA, said miners have been calling for increased scrutiny by government regulators since a second rock fall at the Dotiki mine last week.

The initial rock fall on April 28 killed 27-year-old Justin Travis and 28-year-old Michael Carter. No one was injured in the second rock fall that closed the nonunion mine for five days last week.

“This occurred nearly two miles from the site of the April roof fall that killed two miners,” said Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. “The area of the Dotiki mine where the April fatalities occurred is no longer being mined.”

Earle said some of the miners have secretly raised concerns with the UMWA as well as state and federal regulatory agencies, fearing to do it openly out of concern for losing their jobs.

“They’re crying out for help, and they’re absolutely scared someone else is going to get hurt or killed,” Earle said.

Alliance Resource Partners, the Tulsa, Okla. company that owns Dotiki, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Brown said the same machine that was covered in the April rock fall was also partially covered in the one last week. He said personnel pulled the machine from underneath the rock.

Federal and state inspectors dispatched to the mine on May 23 “determined that the company needed to install supplemental roof supports over the entire area,” Brown said. He said the company began mining coal again on Friday after revising the roof control plan and installing additional roof supports.

Dotiki had been cleared to resume operations less than a week after the fatal rock fall.

Alliance Resource Partners said in a statement at the time that a company investigation revealed the “roof fall was an unpredictable accident involving unforeseeable geological conditions.”

Charlie Wesley, executive vice president of Webster County Coal, an Alliance subsidiary and Dotiki’s operator, said previously that a tiny fault in the area where the roof fall occurred had not been detected by the company’s inspectors.

Federal investigators said Tuesday the April rock fall measured nearly 70 feet long, 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

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