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Boone Co. Mine Where Two Killed Had Bad Safety Reputation, Practiced Dangerous Type of Mining

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Jessica Lilly
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Patriot Coal-owned Boone Co. mine where two men died Monday night had a historically bad record of safety violations and practiced a dangerous type of mining known as “retreat mining.”

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration handed down a Pattern of Violations designation to Brody No. 1 Mine in October 2013 after citing 253 serious violations during a review period. An MSHA audit of Brody Mining’s records found injuries of miners that the operator failed to report to the federal agency.

What is Retreat Mining?

Retreat mining is a method of leaving pillars to support the roof but since there is profitable coal left in those pillars, the operator pulls them causing an intentional collapse.

In a August 2007 article published in The Washington Post, former mine safety official and current attorney representing miners Tony Oppegard said  retreat mining is one "the most dangerous type of mining there is."

"All underground coal mining is inherently dangerous but retreat mining is ultrahazardous and operators have to comply religiously with every step of the pillar removal plan to protect the safety of their miners," Oppegard told West Virginia Public Broadcasting Tuesday afternoon.

"Most of the time when there is an accident on a pillar section or retreat miner section it's because there's not been compliance with the plan or because the miners have not been trained (properly)." 

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Credit Stephen Greb / Kentucky Geological Survey, University of Kentucky
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Kentucky Geological Survey, University of Kentucky

Brody No. 1 Mine's Pattern of Violation Designation

In a letter of notification dated October 24, 2013, MSHA District Manager David Mandeville notified Brody Mining’s safety manager of the Pattern of Violations designation. The new rules give MSHA more authority to immediately shut down the mine if another serious violation is issued.

At that time, Patriot said in a statement that the company did not deserve this status because some of the citations were inherited from the previous owner.

Patriot gained control of Brody Mining on December 31, 2012.

According to MSHA officials, the Brody No. 1 Mine has received 69 withdrawal (closure/shutdown) orders since the initial POV designation.  The mine remains under that status.

The mine can be removed from POV status only when an inspection of the entire mine is completed and no Significant and Substantial (S&S) violations are found, or no withdrawal order is issued by MSHA within 90 days of the issuance of the pattern notice.

An online tool allows operators to monitor montly progress with POV status. 

You can check the latest on the mine's improvements on MSHA's website.

Specific Types of MSHA Citations that Led to POV Designation

  • 18 citations/orders related to "conditions and/or practices that contribute to ventilation and/or methane hazards"
  • 20 citations/orders related to “conditions and/or practices that contribute to emergency preparedness and escapeway hazards”
  • 9 citations/orders relating to “conditions and or practices that contribute to roof and rib hazards”
  • 7 citations/orders related to “conditions or practices that contribute to inadequate examinations"

You can read the letter notifying the Brody No. 1 Mine of their POV status and see the citations and orders here:

Details of inspections, accidents, violations at the mine can be accessed through MSHA’s website by searching the Mine ID number: 4609086.


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