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January 03, 2006
Sago mine has history of roof falls

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff writer

An Upshur County coal mine where 13 workers were trapped Monday has a recent history of roof falls and serious safety violations, according to a review of government records.

In 2004, the Sago Mine reported an injury rate that was three times that of similar-size underground mines across the country.

And last year, the Anker West Virginia Mining Co. operation was fined more than $24,000 for about 200 alleged violations, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data.

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During the last six months of 2005, the Sago Mine reported a dozen accidental roof falls, according to MSHA records.

Only one of those roof falls caused an injury, the MSHA records show.

Three of the roof falls occurred after International Coal Group finalized its purchase of the Anker operation in mid-November.

During their last three complete examinations of the Sago Mine, MSHA inspectors cited the company for more than 180 violations.

After the most recent such inspection — from early October to late December — MSHA issued 46 citations and three orders for a variety of safety violations. Inspectors listed 18 of those as “serious and substantial.” These “S&S” violations are those that MSHA believes are likely to cause an accident that would seriously injure a miner.

“The numbers don’t sound good,” said Davitt McAteer, a Marion County native who was MSHA chief during the Clinton administration.

In that October to December inspection, MSHA cited the Sago Mine for violating its approved roof control and mine ventilation plans. The company was also cited for violations concerning emergency escapeways and required pre-shift safety examinations.

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More The Sago Mine Disaster
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  • Sago survivor recalls 'fragments' from ordeal
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  • Sago lightning questions unanswered
  • Sago Mine reopens
  • Company blames lightning for explosion at Sago Mine
  • $106,000 price tag put on recent Sago fines
  • More oxygen ordered in mines
  • Coal industry seeks to reduce safety checks
  • The Charleston Gazette: Mine safety

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