Kentucky coal company and two supervisors plead guilty in mine-safety case

LONDON — A Harlan County coal company and two supervisors admitted Wednesday that they willfully exposed miners to the risk of being hurt or killed by rock falls.

An attorney for Manalapan Mining Co. entered a guilty plea for the company on a charge that it had miners use equipment that did not have canopies or cabs to protect them if sections of the roof or walls fell.

The company could be fined as much as $250,000.

Jefferson Davis, who was operations manager at the company's mine, and Joseph Miniard Jr., who was the superintendent, each pleaded guilty to a similar misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail.

Miniard also pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he signed off on inspection reports that failed to note hazardous conditions in the underground mine.

That charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The company and the two supervisors entered their pleas before U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove in federal court in London.

Van Tatenhove said the three would be sentenced in March.

Another mine official, foreman Bryant Massingale, pleaded guilty in August to safety violations and is to be sentenced in January.

The violations occurred at Manalapan's P-1 underground mine at Pathfork in June 2011, the month that an employee, David Partin, 49, of Pineville, was killed when a large section of the mine wall collapsed on him.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed a fine of nearly $600,000 for alleged violations present when Partin died.

A federal grand jury charged that the company and the three supervisors violated a number of federal standards in the weeks before Partin was killed.

The charges included that miners were told to use inadequate equipment and were made to work in areas of the mine where the roof was not properly supported, and that supervisors didn't mention dangerous conditions in reports or correct problems.

Other charges against the company, Davis and Miniard will be dismissed when they are sentenced.

MSHA records indicate that Manalapan idled the P-1 mine after Partin's death, with employment dropping from 64 in the second quarter of 2011 to 6 in the third quarter. The mine has reported no coal production since mid-2011, according to federal records.