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Deadly Mining Accident in Monongalia County, W.Va.

Monongalia County Mining Fatality Was An Accident—Federal Investigation Cites Roof Anomaly as Cause

On March 10, the Federal Mine Health and Safety Administration released its findings from its investigation into the Monongalia County mining accident that killed 49-year-old Raymond Savage.

The tragedy, which occurred at the Crawdad No. 1 Mine in Maidsville on November 10, 2014, was an accident, the federal agency concluded.

“The accident occurred because a roof anomaly (slickensided rock) was present, but was not identified prior to positioning the roof bolting machine and starting the roof bolting process,” read the agency’s report.

The agency issued a sole citation for the roof problem, which failed to prevent a rock, three feet wide by five feet long and one foot thick, from falling on Savage.

The operator of the mine, Red Bone Mining, was fully cooperative with the investigation, said the agency. Red Bone was forthcoming with evidence and ensured the rest of the miners were kept safe.

The full details of the federal report can be accessed here.

About the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (also known as MSHA) is a division of the United States Department of Labor. MSHA is tasked with overseeing the requirements of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (the Mine Act).

The central aim of the Mine Act is to promote health and safety in the nation’s mines in order to prevent deaths and accidents and minimize health hazards.

Joe Main is the assistant secretary of labor and the head of MSHA.

MSHA Considers Some Accidents and Injuries Immediately Reportable

The tragic incident at Crawdad No. 1 is the type of accident that is considered immediately reportable by MSHA.

The agency has one inspector for every four mines. Underground mines in particular are inspected four times per year. Additionally, miners have the ability to report violations to MSHA and request additional inspections.

Some of the accidents and injuries considered immediately reportable are:

  • Death
  • Injury that could have resulted in death
  • A miner becoming trapped for more than 30 minutes
  • An unplanned filling of a mine with liquid or gas
  • An unplanned explosion of gas or dust
  • Unplanned fires not extinguished within 30 minutes
  • Roof falls of the type that occurred at Crawdad No. 1
  • Coal or rock outbursts that cause evacuation of a mine for more than one hour
  • Damage to hoisting equipment
  • Unstable conditions that cause miners to evacuate

Famous Mine Disasters

However tragic, the incident in Monongalia County pales in comparison to some past mining disasters. One such occurrence was at the Sago Mine in Upshur County, West Virginia, in 2006, where a blast and collapse trapped 13 miners, of which only one survived.

Another big accident occurred in Alabama in 2001, at the Jim Walter Resources Mine, when two methane gas explosions killed 13 miners. More recently, the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, a West Virginia coalmine explosion in April 2010, killed 29 miners.

Legal Issues Caused by Mine Disasters Can Take Years to Resolve

A recent article by the Wall Street Journal reports that, more than 45 years after the disaster at the Consol No. 9 Mine near Farmington, West Virginia, in 1968, new information has been uncovered that implicates the mine’s electrician, Alex Kovarbasich, in disabling a ventilation fan that caused the accident. Until recently, the mining company, Consolidated Coal Co., had concealed the electrician’s identity.

With this revelation, Tim Bailey, a Charleston mining attorney, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims, seeking damages on their behalf.

“We think the identity of the person responsible and his management-level position justifies filing the case,” said Bailey.