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Two Dead in Kentucky Mine with Record of Roof Support Problems

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The bodies of two coal miners killed in a roof fall at a western Kentucky mine have been recovered and removed from the mine. The two have been identified as Justin Travis, 27, and Michael Carter, 28. The roof collapsed late Wednesday night.

The nonunion Dotki Mine, about 150 miles west of Louisville, is owned by Alliance Coal Co. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) records, the roof at the mine collasped 19 times in the year before Wednesday’s incident, resulting in 13 injuries. MSHA has cited the mine 11 times this year for violations pertaining to roof support.

State inspectors also cited the mine for roof support problems, including placing roof bolts too far apart, according to the Associated Press. Roof bolts are metal rods drilled into overhead rock layers to help prevent the roof from falling.

Tony Oppegard, a former MSHA staffer and longtime mine safety lawyer in Kentucky, told Bloomberg Businessweek:

Roof falls are the No. 1 killer of coal miners. When you have a lot of roof violations, it is very troubling.

Last week, Businessweek reported Dotiki had the seventh highest number of significant and substantial safety violations—321—since January 2009, according to a list of the top 20 coal mines with high numbers of safety violations.

The New York Times reports Alliance Coal’s vice president of operations is Kenneth A. Murray, a former district manager for the Mine Safety and Health Administration in eastern Kentucky who led the investigation of a January 2006 fire that killed two men at Massey Energy Co.’s Aracoma mine in West Virginia.

Wednesday’s fatal roof collapse follows the April 5 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 West Virginia coal miners were killed. On April 22, a 28-year-old coal miner died at the Pocahontas Mine in West Virginia.


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