By Calvin Palmer
Two miners have died after a roof collapse at a Kentucky coal mine with a long history of safety problems.
Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing spokesman Dick Brown said the two miners were found dead today after the accident at the Dotiki Mine, near Providence, in western Kentucky.
Rescue workers found the body of one miner trapped under a rock but had to retreat for a time when the roof became unstable again.
Gov Steve Beshear said rescue crews had reached the site of the collapse, about four miles from the entrance to the mine and were “within an arm’s length” of the man when the roof became unstable and they had to retreat.
“About that time, the roof started moving again,” Beshear said. “Rocks started falling again. And they had to pull back.”
The two miners were identified as Justin Travis, 27, of Dixon, and Michael Carter, 28, of Hanson.
Inspectors from the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing have issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or to shut down equipment because of safety violations since January 2009. Those records also show an additional 44 citations for safety violation that did not result in closure orders.
Records show the mine has been cited 840 times by federal inspectors for safety violations since January 2009, and 11 times closure orders were issued.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell announced the death of the miner during a speech on the Senate floor. “I ask my colleagues and the American people to keep the miners, their families, and the rescue workers in their prayers,” McConnell said.
No mention of charging the mine owners with criminal negligence or even manslaughter in view of the mine’s appalling record of safety violations. Of course not, that would smack too much of “big government”, which Republicans like McConnell vehemently oppose.
But McConnell does not work in a coal mine and he also knows which side his bread is buttered, so I doubt the families of the two dead miners will get much justice on his account. They will get the platitudes and prayers but that will not bring the two men back.
The mine is owned by Alliance Resource Partners, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company’s Web site says it purchased the mine in 1971 and produces high-sulfur coal there.
Alliance primarily sells coal to electric utilities. It reported 3,090 full-time employees, $1.1 billion in assets and $1.2 billion in total revenues at the end of 2009.
Steve Earl, a regional vice president of the United Mine Workers of America, said the mine accident should serve as a reminder to state officials of the need to fully staff regulatory agencies.
Beshear said yesterday that a budget impasse in Frankfort could force a partial government shutdown that could halt, at least temporarily, mine inspections and idle mine rescue teams unless lawmakers reach an agreement on a spending plan before July 1.
“This is not the time for the state of Kentucky to be cutting back on safety inspections and ending mine rescue teams,” Earl said. “They need to find the money somewhere.”
You can be sure it will not come from Alliance Resource Partners. It could even be possible that they are using their influence to ensure the subsequent suspension of mine inspections.
That would suit them nicely.
Alliance Resource Partners has a Code of Ethics listed on its Web site. It states:
Alliance Resource Management GP, LLC, (the “Company”), as managing general partner of Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. (together with its subsidiaries, the “Partnership”), is committed to conducting business in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and in accordance with high standards of business conduct.
The company’s Chief Executive Officer is also supposed to:
Act with honesty, integrity and in an ethical manner.
Promote ethical behavior in the work environment.
Not knowingly be a party to any illegal activity or engage in any act that will discredit his or her profession, the Company or the Partnership.
Promptly report to the Company’s chief legal officer, General Counsel, or the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors any situation where this Code of Ethics, the Insider Trading Policy or any other Company or Partnership policy or conduct code, or any law applicable to the Company, the Partnership or their employees, is being violated.
It all seems fine on paper but does not seem to have been put into practice.
I wonder if the following directors and officers of Alliance Resource Management will sleep easy in their beds tonight in the knowledge of today’s tragedy at the Dotiki mine:
Joseph W. Craft III, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director;
Robert G. Sachse, Executive Vice President and Marketing;
Charles R. Wesley, Executive Vice President and Director;
Michael J. Hall, Director;
Wilson M. Torrence, Director;
John P. Neafsey, Director and Board Chairman;
John H. Robinson, Director;
R. Eberley Davis, Senior Vice President – General Counsel and Secretary;
Brian L. Cantrell, Senior Vice President – Chief Financial Officer;
Thomas M. Wynne, Senior Vice President – Chief Operating Officer.
I expect they will.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]