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 Post subject: Harmony Mine faces fines in Shamokin miner's death
PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:46 am 
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Harmony Mine faces fines in Shamokin miner's death

From Staff
Pottsville Republican & Herald
October 20, 2009

MOUNT CARMEL - The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is proposing $504,900 in fines against a local coal mine operator for a miner's death.

Forty-five-year-old Robert Carey, of Shamokin, was killed on June 16, 2008, by falling rocks or coal inside Harmony Mine near Mount Carmel.

The agency said Carey directed a machine operator to take excessively wide cuts in violation of the approved roof control plan.

MSHA said operator UAE Coalcorp Associates knew about adverse conditions, but allowed work to continue. The agency cited UAE for several safety violations, including allowing miners to travel and work under an unsupported roof, failing to provide turn posts to protect the continuous mining machine operator, directing the continuous mining machine operator to take cuts that violated the roof control plan and failure to report hazardous conditions.

"Safety is priority one, and the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will accept no less," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Miners perform valuable work under difficult conditions. The minimum we should do is guarantee them the protections they are afforded by the law."

Messages left for UAE Coalcorp on Monday by The News-Item and the Associated Press weren't immediately returned.

Prior to the accident, Carey traveled under an unsupported roof with the continuous miner operator and continuous miner helper to set timber posts at the face, MSHA reports.

"The mine operator was aware of adverse roof conditions in the area but nevertheless allowed mining to continue," said Dr. Gregory R. Wagner, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary for policy.

MSHA issued an unwarrantable failure citation and four unwarrantable failure orders after an accident investigation was completed

A flagrant violation is defined as "a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury." Under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, a civil penalty of up to $220,000 may be assessed for each flagrant violation.

This was the second fatal accident at the mine, which has been in operation off Route 61 between Centralia and Mount Carmel since 1990, according to state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Rathbun.

About Harmony

Harmony Mine rests on a 34-acre site about two miles south of Mount Carmel. It has been in operation since May 8, 1990.

The operation mines the Lykens Number Two seam of coal, which is 60 to 72 inches thick, Rathbun told The News-Item after the accident in 2008,

The only other fatal accident at Harmony Mine occurred in September 1994, when a mining supervisor was killed installing roof supports. Rathbun added that the investigation ruled that the accident was the fault of the individual.

There were two other serious accidents that were reported to DEP during the mine's operation, Rathbun said.

In March 1991, a mine foreman was struck by falling coal at the mine face. In June 2004, a miner sustained serious crush injuries as a result of a collision of shuttle cars underground, which was a "freak accident," Rathbun said.

In July 2008, Rathbun said there wasn't a history of safety problems at Harmony Mine.

"They have a good environmental compliance," he said. "There have been some accidents, but then again, mining is a dangerous business."

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