Continuous miner operator Phillip Newton, 35, died the evening of December 16 at Sapphire Coal Company’s Sandlick II operation in Letcher County when a piece of shale rock fell from the roof as he operated a Joy 14CM15 unit remotely.
“The victim was cleaning up the right side of an extended cut, which cut the 5-Right crosscut into the No. 6 entry,” the agency explained, noting that the rock measured 13 feet in length, 13-16 inches in thickness and about 6ft in width.
Newton had 12 years of mining experience, including one year at Sandlick II. He had been a CM operator for three years.
To help prevent similar incidents, MSHA has released a collection of best practices involving roof control plans and cutting procedures. They include:
Never exceed the maximum cut depth specified in the approved roof control plan;
Do not mine extended cuts when adverse or subnormal roof conditions are present. The cut depth should be limited to 20ft or less;
Persons should never expose any portion of their body inby the second row of undisturbed permanent roof supports when extended cuts are being mined;
Mine first cuts in a crosscut in a manner which reduces the radius of the outby corner to that specified in the roof control plan;
Take down loose roof rock as the cut is mined; and
When developing rooms or panels off mains or sub-mains, keep pillar block orientations consistent with the minimum entry and crosscut centers specified in the approved roof control plan.
MSHA has encouraged anyone with additional prevention ideas to submit them through its website, including the year of the fatality and the fatality number.
Sapphire Coal Company is owned by Metinvest BV.
Sandlick II employs 55 workers, 51 underground. According to federal data, the mine had not recorded a fatal operator injury in at least the past 14 years.
Sandlick II recorded a non-fatal days lost contractor injury in 2009, but its last NFDL operator injury was in 2006. The mine’s NFDL incidence rate for both 2007 and 2008 was zero.