Harlan County mine is among nine nationwide cited during special inspections in May

bestep@herald-leader.comJune 27, 2012 

A Harlan County underground coal mine shut down for nine days last month because of safety violations was among nine nationwide cited during special federal inspections in May.

Inspectors issued 43 citations and orders at K and D Mining Inc.'s Mine No. 17 in Harlan County, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday.

There were numerous health and safety violations at the mine, including poor ventilation — with a cloud of dust 60 feet deep at the working face — buildups of combustible dust and defective equipment, according to an MSHA news release.

Inspectors issued orders to close the mine until problems were fixed.

Mine operators know that such conditions can have disastrous consequences, MSHA chief Joseph A. Main said in a news release.

"What goes on at some of these mines when MSHA is not there is of great concern and likely would not be detected if it were not for the special tactics MSHA employs," Main said.

K and D has been in the news lately because two men listed as controllers, Ralph Napier and John D. North, reportedly helped run the Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County, where an explosion killed five miners and injured another in May 2006.

Federal inspectors also issued citations during the May special inspections at a surface mine in Magoffin County operated by Licking River Mining LLC, according to the news release.

MSHA started the so-called "impact" inspections after an April 2010 explosion killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

The inspections focus on mines the agency thinks need extra attention because of a poor compliance history or other red flags.

MSHA has done 452 impact inspections since April 2010, issuing more than 8,900 citations and orders.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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