Environment
4:26 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Harlan County Coal Miner Dies in Underground Accident

Another Kentucky coal miner has died on the job.

Lenny D. Gilliam, 56, of Appalachia, Va., died Tuesday afternoon at the Huff Creek Mine in Harlan County. The mine is operated by Lone Mountain Processing, a subsidiary of Arch Coal.

The Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing says:

Preliminary reports indicate the side of a coal pillar burst as the continuous miner machine was operating, causing the miners to be trapped.

Two other miners--Terry Scott and Johnny Nantz--were injured in the accident; their injuries don't appear to be life-threatening.

The Huff Creek Mine has racked up nearly 200 violations since January 2011, according to federal data. Thirty-six of those were classified as S&S, or “significant and substantial,” and three in the past month have been for inadequate roof control plans, which could have contributed to the accident.

The mine didn't meet the Mine Safety and Health Administration's criteria to be put on a "pattern of violations" status, which is used (at least theoretically) to flag the most problematic coal mines. To be placed on that status, it would have needed at least 50 S&S violations in the past 12 months; Huff Creek only had six.

There have been three fatalities at Huff Creek since 1992, which is when Lone Mountain Processing took it over: one in 2006, and two in 2002. The mine was last inspected on July 25, 2013.

This is Kentucky’s second mining-related fatality this year, and the nation’s 12th coal mining death.