Coal company and three supervisors indicted in Kentucky

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In an unusual move, a federal grand jury in Kentucky has returned an indictment against Manalapan Mining Co. and three of its supervisors over alleged safety violations at the P-1 deep mine in Harlan County, Ky.

One of the indicted parties, Jefferson Davis, was the Operations Manager at the P-1 mine. Joseph Miniard was the Superintendent at the mine. Bryant Massingale was a foreman on the second shift at the P-1 mine.

The indictment, which is technically an accusation, said the company and the three supervisors did not follow the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration-approved roof control plan at the mine during a period of June 6 through June 29, 2011.

Manalapan was charged in one count with failing to cease roof bolting operations when the Automated Temporary Roof Support (ATRS) equipment did not set firmly against the mine roof in the 002 Section of the P-1 mine. Another count said the company violated the law in allowing miners to work under unsupported roof in the 002 Section of the P-1 mine. A third count said that Manalapan allowed miners to operate electrical mobile bridge carriers and/or section scoops in the 002 Section of the mine without substantially constructed canopies or cabs to protect the miner/operators from roof falls and from rib and face rolls. A fourth count said the company failed to remove from service until corrected a potentially dangerous condition which bypassed a monitoring device on the trailing electrical cable for the continuous haulage system located in the 002 Section of the mine.

The counts of the indictment that cover the three individuals basically accuse them of allowing to happen what was in the first four counts against the company, including alleged falsification of pre-shift reports.

The penalties for counts 1 through 7 are not more than 1 year imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, or both, except if after the first conviction of such corporate director, officer or agent the punishment shall be by a fine of $500,000, or by imprisonment of not more than five year, or by both, and not more than three years of supervised release.

The penalties for counts 8-32 are not more than five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 or both, and not more than three years of supervised release.

It is very unusual for a coal company to be indicted for alleged safety violations. But in the aftermath of an April 2010 explosion at a Massey Energy mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has stepped up its enforcement efforts.

MSHA data shows that Manalapan Mining is controlled by coal operator Ben Bennett and that the P-1 mine is currently “nonproducing.” The mine produced 84,688 tons in the first half of 2011 and no coal in the second half, with output of 189,319 tons in all of 2010, MSHA data shows.

The indictment was filed Feb. 22 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The same day, the court issued a summons for Bennett, as President of Manalapan, to appear in court on March 13.

A local newspaper report said the parties indicted couldn’t be reached for comment.

Barry Cassell
About the Author

Barry Cassell

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.

Barry can be reached at barryc@pennwell.com.

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