MSHA issues citations over fatal accident at Armstrong Coal mine

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued five citations over an October 2011 accident at Armstrong Coal’s Equality strip mine in western Kentucky that killed two workers.

Darrel Winstead, Certified Blaster, and Samual Lindsey, Blaster Helper, were killed when the 1-ton truck they were in was struck and covered by rock and rubble when a portion of the highwall failed. Both miners were employees of Mine Equipment and Mill Supply Co. (MEMSCO), a contractor blasting company for Armstrong Coal.

The two miners were in the #11 Pit traveling to the area that had been prepared for the loading of explosives and the eventual blasting of material as part of normal mining activity when the highwall failure occurred. “The accident occurred because mine management failed to recognize a geologic anomaly, located in the portion of the highwall below the #14 coal seam and above the #13 coal seam, prior to the highwall failure,” said the MSHA final accident report, issued May 29.

The five citations had to do with alleged inadequate illumination, an inadequate site examination, failure to provide proper course material in a training plan related to hazard recognition, failure to recognize and control hazards, and failure to establish and follow a ground control plan. Citations are appealable to a federal mine safety commission.

The Equality mine is operated by Armstrong Coal and is located off of State Highway 69, about six and a half miles southeast of Centertown, Ky. At the time of the incident the mine employed 118 people and 14 contractor employees. Daily production of coal averaged 13,500 tons. Equality is a surface mine with an open pit, mining four separate seams of coal. Blasting operations are provided by MEMSCO.

A regular safety and health inspection by MSHA was in progress at the time of the accident. The previous inspection was completed in September 2011. The Non Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incidence rate for the mine in 2010 was 0.00, compared to a national NFDL incidence rate of 1.12 for surface mines.

These were fatalities 18 and 19 in the U.S. coal industry in 2011, with the year ending at 23 fatalities. The fatality total so far in 2012 for the U.S. coal industry is eight, with the latest fatal accident occurring May 17 at the Liberty prep plant in southern West Virginia of Independence Coal, a unit of Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.