Miners picket DEP in Uniontown
Connellsville Daily Courier - Connellsville,PA,USA
by Michael Cope
September 15, 2007
A group of 30 coal miners picketed Friday outside a state Department of Environmental Protection branch office in South Union to highlight alleged unsafe conditions at Cumberland Mine.
Members of United Mine Workers of America Local 2300 claim Foundation Coal Holdings Inc. of Linthicum Heights, Md., has operated the Greene County mine since August without proper ventilation.
The workers protested for three hours in front of the Bureau of Mine Safety location at the Fayette County Health Center along New Salem Road.
"We want the state to enforce the safety laws in place since 1961," said Tony Brnusak, president of Local 2300. "We want to make people aware, and the state aware: Safety is first."
Cumberland Mine was established in 1977 about 12 miles south of Waynesburg. The complex employs 611 workers and shipped 7 million tons of coal in 2005.
Brnusak said the fans went down three weeks ago, and, according to safety regulations, the company is required to egress the mine within 15 minutes.
Only after the mine is evacuated should a walk-through examination happen, Brnusak said. But management argues certified personnel were permitted in the facility as the outage was remediated.
"Cumberland Coal Resources management complied with regulations as interpreted by the Pennsylvania Department of Deep Mine Safety," Foundation Coal Holdings spokesman Peter Vietti said. "Management allowed certified examiners to remain in the mine when the ventilation fan restarted after a brief outage."
State police dispatched three units with four troopers to maintain order at the protest, though the picketers remained peaceful.
"They have been complete gentlemen," Trooper Adam Steinhauser said. "They just have a message they want to get out."
The protesters dispersed at 10 a.m. with an agreement from the DEP to review the matter, Brnusak said. DEP personnel did not immediately respond to a request for an interview yesterday