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No fines for West Virginia mine where Tucker County worker died

West Virginia mine operators risk being shut down when work safety standards are repeatedly violated. Under the Mine Act, the Mine Safety and Health Administration can order a withdrawal of workers from a mine until operators correct deficiencies. Unfortunately, enforcement often comes in the wake of tragedy, after a miner is severely injured or dies.

A January coal mining accident claimed the life of a young Tucker County miner, a 20-year-old man with two years' experience working at the Mountain View Mine. A portion of a coal feeder that secured the machine in place failed, causing the miner to become trapped between the feeder and a wall. Co-workers freed the crushed victim, but not in time to save the miner's life.

MSHA investigated and recently determined the mine operator, Mettiki Coal WV, was negligent. The federal agency found no fault with the miner, who had adequate training, or the coal feeder. The cause of the miner's death was blamed on Mettiki Coal's failure to prevent the equipment from moving, plus a lack of company procedures to make certain miners knew how to work safely around the feeder.

The government sent the mine operator a notice with recommendations to bring the company into compliance. No fine was issued. Mettiki Coal responded by upgrading equipment security and instructing miners to stand clear during the coal feeder's start-up process.

The fatal coal mining accident at Mountain View Mine was the first of three West Virginia mine deaths this year. Two workers died last month in a Boone County mine. The state has recorded half of the mining deaths in the U.S. so far this year.

Insurance proceeds often cover medical costs and lost wages for victims of coal mining injuries and miners' families. When faulty mine equipment contributes to an injury or death, a legal claim for damages also may be filed against the defective machine's manufacturer.

Source: Charleston Daily Mail, "Report: Operator failure causes mining death" Daily Mail Staff, Jun. 03, 2014

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