Coal mine operator gets probation

A coal mine operator was sentenced to probation in U.S. District Court on Thursday for violating mine safety laws.

Alger B. Jent, 57, of Kite in Knott County, operated a coal mine on the Pike and Letcher county line. Under the conditions of his probation, he will not be allowed to own or operate a mine for at least two years.

The maximum penalty for the charges against Jent could have been one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. The plea agreement was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Atkins and Assistant U.S. Attorney Davis Sledd.

Jent was indicted by a federal grand jury in January and in April pleaded guilty to three of four counts of violating mine safety laws set forth by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The fourth count was dismissed.

While inspecting the mine in June 2008, MSHA investigators from Pikeville found roof bolts that were too weak and too short. MSHA guidelines say that if a bolt is not set correctly, it cannot adequately support the mine roof.

Jent admitted that he failed to follow MSHA's roof control plan and that there were roof bolts in the mine that did not meet safety requirements.