(Adds response from Patriot)
By Annie Moore
BECKLEY, W.Va. May 13 The West Virginia coal
mine where a collapse this week killed two workers had "chronic
compliance issues" and received numerous citations from
inspectors last year, federal authorities said on Tuesday.
The Patriot Coal Corp's Brody Mine No. 1
collapsed about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, trapping two miners, the
federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said in a
The miners, both from West Virginia, were identified as Eric
Legg, 48, of Twilight and Gary Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville.
"We express our deepest sympathies to Eric's and Gary's
families, friends and co-workers," Mike Day, Patriot's executive
vice president for operations, said in a statement.
He said the St. Louis-based company was cooperating with
state and federal regulators investigating the accident.
Patriot said the incident took place as workers were
carrying out retreat mining, which involves mining coal and
leaving pillars behind to support the mine roof. When mining is
completed, the pillars are collapsed and removed.
Federal authorities said there was a pattern of difficulties
at the mine.
Last October, the Patriot Coal Corp's Brody Mine
was placed on "pattern of violations" status, a scheme designed
to bring "chronic violators" of federal mining standards into
line, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said
in a statement. In 2013, MSHA issued 514 citations, orders and
safeguards against it.
Asked for a response, a Patriot spokeswoman pointed to the
company's annual report, which notes that many of the Brody
violations preceded Patriot's acquisition of the mine and that
the site's performance had improved.
Mine Safety data for the Brody mine shows that the rate of
days lost because of accidents there has been above the national
average since 2006. (here)
The two deaths raised the number of U.S. coal mining
fatalities this year to five, and there were 20 in 2013,
according to Mine Safety data.
West Virginia is one of the biggest U.S. producers of coal
and leads states in coal-mining deaths, Mine Safety numbers
show. Before Monday's accident, the state recorded 124 deaths
since 2003, about 39 percent of the U.S. total.
Separately, Patriot said on Monday it was temporarily idling
its Highland mine complex near Henderson, Kentucky. It cited a
structural failure that damaged part of the Camp Preparation
Plant last week.
(Editing by Edith Honan, Eric Walsh and Ken Wills)