Group takes WV to task for slacking proximity

ATTORNEYS for the group Mountain State Justice have filed an emergency petition in West Virginia Supreme Court against two state mining agencies, demanding the mandated placement of proximity detection systems at West Virginia mines.

Donna Schmidt

Just before Christmas, the group filed documentation claiming the Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training and the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety had so far failed to require proximity detection systems for all operations, according to the Associated Press.

MSJ filed the suit on behalf of mine safety advocate Marshall Justice, a member of the United Mine Workers of America Local 1503 in Boone County, West Virginia, as well as on behalf of widow Caitlin O’Dell, whose husband Steven was killed last November at an Alpha Natural Resources operation in Greenbrier County after being pinned between a scoop and a continuous mining machine.

The group cited state law in its petition, specifically those that outline a responsibility by the mine safety office and the board to use best-available systems for miner safety.

It claimed the two agencies could have prevented past deaths and injuries as well as preventing future incidents by requiring the purchase and installation of proximity devices.

The suit comes just after a decision by the coal board to hold off on a move to mandate proximity in West Virginia mines.

It was the agency’s fourth push of the decision.

The next step comes on January 9, when a subcommittee will discuss the issue and evaluate proposals by labour and industry.

The BCMH has not released a public statement on the issue or the suit.