Aracoma cited day before fire

A WEST Virginia state inspector cited the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine for inadequate airflow in the longwall intake area the day before a conveyor belt fire killed two miners.

Staff Reporter

The inspection report, obtained by the Charleston Gazette, included six notices of violations issued to the Massey Energy mine in Melville by inspector Richard Boggess, an inspector with the state’s Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, on January 17 and 18.

The Gazette said the reports indicated the mine was cited for several violations, including no records of a pre-shift examination, violation of its roof control plan and failure to report an accident that led to a mine worker being hospitalised.

On January 19 an underground mine fire broke out near the longwall conveyor belt drive at the mine. Twelve miners working underground at the time began evacuating the mine but encountered heavy smoke. Don I Bragg and Ellery Hatfield became separated from the group and later died.

In his citation made before the fire, Boggess reported airflow of 25,000 cubic feet per minute in the No. 9 longwall section, rather than the required 45,000 cubic feet per minute, the Gazette reported.

The longwall section was shut down and the violation remedied.

Days after the fire the mine was fined four times for issues relating to ventilation and explosives. These included citations for not maintaining line brattice to control ventilation in the No. 2 section; citations for allowing accumulation of combustible materials in that section; and citations for foremen in three sections who could not produce records to prove they had explained the roof control plan to miners.

The paper also reported electrical safety rules had been violated dozens of times at the mine, but state inspectors did not discover the problems until after the fire.

Massey had no record of performing more than 100 required electrical equipment checks in the two months before the fire. Regulators had not performed an annual electrical inspection for at least two years, the Gazette said.