Federal officials have ranked underground bituminous coal mining as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, a fact that's not surprising to West Virginia miners or their families. The recent death of a 45-year-old coal miner near Cameron was the state's first mining fatality of the year.
The accident at Marshall County Mine, which also injured two other miners, was the result of a partial mine collapse or groundfall, specifically a roof and rib fall on a longwall coalface. The term "rib" refers to the side walls of a mine. A "coalface" is the exposed site where coal is dug underground.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued over a dozen citations to mine owner Murray Energy in the week before the fatal accident. Several safety violations concerned a failure to plan and protect workers from groundfall dangers. This isn't the first time the mine's been in trouble.
Murray Energy has been cited 189 times for safety violations at the Marshall County Mine, a former CONSOL Energy mine, since the beginning of 2015. More than 1,000 people are employed there. Forty-seven workers were injured at the mine last year and 14 have suffered injuries since the start of this year.
The mine was cited 970 times in 2014. Groundfalls haven't been the only concern. MSHA also has cited the company for coal dust, air quality and noise infractions among other dangerous conditions.
According Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 75 underground coal miners nationwide lost their lives in groundfall accidents between 1999 and 2008. More than 5,900 miners were injured. Nearly half of all underground coal miners' deaths since 1906 have been attributed to groundfalls, the primary cause of fatalities.
Coal mining accident victims and their families receive workers' compensation benefits. Attorneys can help victims identify other sources of compensation and file liability claims against third parties for damages.
Source: The News & Observer, "West Virginia mine cited in week before fatal accident" Pam Ramsey, Associated Press, Mar. 09, 2015