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Five Alpha foremen cited following W. Va. mine death

Five foremen at an Alpha Natural Resources mine in Fayette County ignored dozens of safety violations, including the kind of poor mine wall stability that led to the death of a worker in March, state inspectors allege.

The state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training on Tuesday released the "individual personal assessments," or IPAs, issued to the five foremen at Alpha subsidiary Kingston Mining's Kingston No. 2 Mine.

State inspectors cited mine foremen Roger Cantley and Steve Lafferty, assistant mine foremen James Law and Chris Patrick and foreman Donnie Hayhurst, according to state records.

State inspectors said that mine condition reports from the foremen at Kingston No. 2 did not reflect the actual conditions underground. Under state and federal law, foremen are required to conduct detailed mine inspections, note any problems they find and ensure that those problems are fixed before workers go underground.

In one instance at Kingston, mine reports said underground conditions were "safe," and there was "no mention of any unsafe" mine walls or ribs. State inspectors, though, found more than 30 different locations where unsafe mine rib conditions existed.

Alpha's Kingston Resources was cited Monday with 45 safety violations in the investigation of the March 10 mine wall collapse that killed 34-year-old section foreman Jeremy Sigler of Pool at the Kingston No. 2 Mine near Mossy.

The state citations included one that the state classified as deserving a "special assessment" -- a fine of $10,000 -- for not controlling the mine wall, or rib, in the area where Sigler was killed.

Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the state mine safety office, said monetary penalties for the individual citations have not yet been proposed by her agency. The state's documents did not list the age, hometown or contact information for the five foremen.

Both of the coal-mining deaths in West Virginia so far in 2012 occurred at Alpha operations. Last week, Clyde Dolin, 57, was killed at Alpha subsidiary Independence Coal's Liberty Processing plant in Boone County.

Independence Coal was among the operations that Alpha inherited when it purchased Massey Energy in June 2011, while Kingston was already an Alpha subsidiary.

Alpha officials have promoted their company safety program, "Running Right," as the solution to improving health-and-safety performance, especially at the former Massey operations it purchased nearly a year ago.

Ted Pile, an Alpha spokesman, said that management at his company's Kingston subsidiary have not yet seen the state's report.

"So we haven't had any time to assess the report and its conclusions," Pile said. "In any event it's highly unlikely that we'd talk about any actions we might or might not take involving individual employees. We just don't discuss personnel matters in the public arena."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702. 


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