MSHA issues report on Fairbanks Coal fatal accident

A final U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration accident report released May 15 shows several orders but no citations issued against Fairbanks Coal Co. over a Dec. 7, 2011, accident that led to the death of Richard Yonts, a 49-year-old excavator operator.

Yonts was fatally injured while loading haul trucks in a strip pit. He was operating a Komatsu PC 400 excavator, loading shot material from the active pit into a Komatsu 785 haul truck. A portion of the highwall collapsed onto the operator’s compartment of the excavator, resulting in fatal injuries.

“The day before the accident, hazards were observed in the highwall by mine management, and afterward, mine management constructed an inadequate barricade to prevent access to the hazardous pit area,” said the final report. “The hazards observed in the highwall and documented by mine management the day before the accident, were not reviewed by mine management the day of the accident. The hazards observed by mine management in the highwall during the pre-shift examination performed on the day of the accident, were not eliminated or mitigated by mine management.”

The site of the accident, the Fairbanks No. 4 mine, is a surface job located in Wise County, Va. The mine is operated by Fairbanks Coal and works the Redwine, Kelly and Imboden seams. This mine at the time of the accident operated two 9-hour production shifts five to six days per week. The Fairbanks No. 4 mine employed at that point 29 miners in one active pit. The mine produced about 4,500 tons of raw coal per week. Coal was transported by truck to the Pigeon Creek Processing Corp. Plant No. 1, which is owned and operated by Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR). The coal was then processed and loaded in rail cars.

The principal Officers for Fairbanks Coal include Wesley Burke, President, Director and owner. This mine became active on March 15, 2010. The last regular MSHA inspection of the Fairbanks No. 4 mine was completed on May 5, 2011. The last Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incidence rate for this surface mine in 2011 was 0, compared to the national average of 1.30 for mines of the same type.

The MSHA database shows the Fairbanks No. 4 mine as “nonproducing” as of May 15, with no production in the first quarter of this year and 193,066 tons of production in all of 2011.

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.