It is not unusual for mining companies to be fined for safety violations, and if those violations are believed to be a major cause of a mining accident resulting in deaths and/or serious injuries to miners, then those fines can be quite steep.
Much more rare, however, is charging mine operators with felonies as a result of mining accidents, but two officials at an eastern Kentucky mine where a coal miner was killed last year not only have been charged with knowingly violating federal safety laws that led to the death, but they apparently are ready to plead guilty through proposed plea agreements filed in federal court.
Jefferson Davis and Joseph Miniard are planning to plead guilty and could possibly be sent to prison when they are sentenced March 6 in U.S. District Court in London. The men were supervisors at Manalapan Mining’s P-1 Mine in Harlan County during a June 2011 underground collapse that killed miner David Partin.
Miniard, the mine’s superintendent, will plead guilty to a charge that he signed a preshift report that failed to include an existing hazardous condition in the mine. The mining equipment did not have canopies to protect equipment operators, court records said. The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and up to three years of supervised released.
Partin, 49, died when a large section of rock from the mine’s wall fell on him, knocking him into a dolly, according to a report from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Investigators say the mine’s continuous haulage system backed up, causing the dolly to move, which dragged Partin from beneath the rock.
Miniard and Davis, the operations manager, will also plead guilty to a charge they knowingly violated a safety rule, according to the proposed plea agreements. That count carries a maximum sentence of a year.
The agreement also says Manalapan Mining could be fined up to $250,000.
The men along with the mine’s second-shift foreman, Bryant Massingale, were indicted on several charges in February. Massingale pleaded guilty in August to making a false certification and knowingly violating a safety standard. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10. The indictment said records of preshift inspections kept by the supervisors dating from June 13 through 28 were falsified. Partin died June 29.
Miniard, Davis and Massingale knowingly looked the other way and allowed serious safety violations to continue. As a result, David Partin is dead. The three men should be held accountable for their role in the mining death, not just the mining company they worked for.