More U.S. miners killed in roof falls
Cornelius Yates, a 44-year-old coal miner, was killed by a roof fall at the Maverick LLC Mine #1 near Pikesville, Kentucky, on January 10, a week after the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia. Yates was a roof bolter. He was killed after a huge rock dropped out of the roof, trapping him under the canopy of a bolting machine. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) had cited the mine for 114 safety violations since November 2004.
Roof bolters secure the roof of a mine with reinforced steel pins after extraction of coal.
“Coal mining fatalities drop to record low,” was the headline of an article in the December 31 edition of the Observer-Reporter.com, referring to the 22 deaths on the job in U.S. coal mines last year.
As the recent disasters in West Virginia and Kentucky show, however, the mine bosses’ profit drive may be reversing such a “trend.” Yates’s death brought the toll in U.S. coal mines to 13 in the first 10 days of this year. Of particular note is an increase in fatal roof falls, a product of speedup as bosses push workers to take short cuts. Nine of the 22 coal mine deaths last year were caused by roof falls, or 41 percent. Roof falls the preceding five years resulted in an average of 4.4 deaths annually, or about 13 percent.
In 2005, four coal miners died in Pennsylvania mines, an increase over the preceding decade. Of these, two were underground miners, both employed by Rosebud Mining, Inc., which operates 10 deep mines in the west-central part of the state.
None of Rosebud’s mines are unionized.
The latest Pennsylvania death occurred on December 12 when Eric Hill, 30, an operator of the continuous miner machine, was killed by a rock fall at Rosebud’s Logansport Mine. Boyd Beer, Jr., 26, a roof bolter operator, was also killed by a roof fall at Rosebud’s Tracy Lynne mine last June.
After completing its initial investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is responsible for overseeing deep mine safety, suspended the mining certificates of three foremen and one worker at the Logansport mine, ordered the company to stop mining, and told Rosebud officials to prepare a new roof control plan.
Jay Ressler is an underground coal miner in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and a member of United Mine Workers of America Local 1248.