UPDATE, Mine cited for faulty breaker

By: B.K. NECESSARY of the Daily Telegraph staff, January 31, 2002

GRUNDY, Va. - Immediately following last week's electrocution death of a Buchanan County coal miner, Virginia mining officials cited the mine for a faulty high voltage circuit breaker which protected the underground high voltage for the mine. The report from the Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy's Division of Mines said the high voltage circuit breaker for the Mackie J Mine, Inc., in Buchanan County, Va., would not trip creating "an imminent danger to the life or health of persons in the mine." On Jan. 24, Ronnie Bert Endicott, 42, of Pilgrims Knob, Va., received fatal injuries at Mackie J Coal Company, Inc., after "coming in contact with energized 12,470 VAC power," according to the VDMME's Division of Mines report. Mike Abbott, VDDME's public relations manager, said when the accident occurred, Endicott was working at a site some 2,200 feet underground where he was setting up a section power center which Abbott said was a type of electrical substation for the mine. Abbott said Endicott's death was the first coal mining fatality for 2002 in Virginia. Abbott said safety inspectors with both the state and the federal Mine, Safety and Health Administra-tion have not determined if the faulty breaker box contributed to the accident or was made faulty as a result of the accident. "A violation was written and the condition was found to exist when the investigation got underway. It is too early in the investigation to say whether or not this condition was a factor in Mr. Endicott's death," Abbott said. According to the report, "The switch gear (high voltage circuit breaker) located on the line power surface substation ... located on the surface at this mine that provides protection for the underground high voltage circuit for his mine would not trip when treated under a ground fault or over current condition ... "The relays would activate but the breaker would not trip. These conditions create an imminent danger, a violation of this act has occurred, which creates an imminent danger to the life or health of persons at the mine." A total of 40 separate state mine violations were lodged in 2001 against Mackie J Coal Company, Inc., and the mine's owner Mack Stiltner by the Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy's Division of Mines according to the agency's violation records. All 40 violations against Mackie J Coal Co. were corrected according to the report. Some of the violations cited in the state report included inoperative panic systems on equipment, guards or other safety devices removed from machinery, inappropriate methane testing, uncertified workers performing mine tasks, electric equipment and wiring not being properly examined, combustible materials were allowed to accumulate where they could create a fire and inoperative audible warning devices on machines, failure to comply with approved roof control plan, inappropriate ventilation, no records of calibrations on all hand held methane detectors at the mine and coal dust and other combustible materials were allowed to accumulate excessively in working areas. There were two coal mining deaths in the state last year, Abbott said. Virginia's second death occurred Monday night at Virginia Pocahontas No. 8 near Deskins in Buchanan County, according to Abbott. Fred Ramsey "Junior" Hess, 54, of Honaker, Va., was killed, Abbott said, after a recirculation pump exploded at the mine's preparation plant. - Contact B.K. Necessary at bknecessary@bdtonline.com

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