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W.Va. Cites 45 Violations After 2 Deaths At Mine

By VICKI SMITH

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ State inspectors have issued 45 violations at a West Virginia coal mine since two men died there earlier this month, including one for negligently rigging the switch on a hoist with a piece of wood and a rusty bolt, according to mine-safety records.

Edward Finney of Bluefield, Va., died at Pocahontas Coal Co.'s Affinity Mine near Sophia on Feb. 7, when he was pinned under a hoist he'd been moving trash into. Hoists are used to move miners, equipment and supplies between the surface and the underground operation.

On Feb. 19, a state inspector found a newly installed switch at the bottom of the shaft housing the 30-ton service hoist had been improperly rigged. The inspector called it a serious violation indicating "an extremely high degree of negligence."

Tennessee-based United Coal Co., which owns Pocahontas Coal, said Tuesday it is cooperating fully with state and federal investigators.

"We take all violations seriously and are actively addressing their root causes. Our employees are our most valuable resource," said corporate counsel Jennifer Guthrie. "We are committed to their safety."

Guthrie said management met with Affinity employees last week for what she called "frank and mutually beneficial" discussions about safety.

"We will continue to maintain open lines of communication with our work force," she said in an email. "Our first objective once the mine reopens will be to focus on task re-training. We will continue our ongoing efforts to implement a safety-first culture."

A separate violation issued for a 19-person emergency hoist at Affinity found it lacked a hinged metal plate to ensure the safe loading and unloading of the cage. Inspectors also declared that a serious violation involving a high degree of negligence.

John Myles, a shuttle car operator from Hilltop, was crushed by a scoop at the Affinity Mine just last week.

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