Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
State mine safety agency receives federal response
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2006) – The Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing (OMSL) has received a response to questions posed to a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspector as part of the investigation into the Kentucky Darby No. 1 mine accident.
The response, received by OMSL on Nov. 30, 2006, has been reviewed by the state’s chief accident investigator and does not change any conclusions reached in the state’s accident report. The state investigation is now considered final.
The state’s report concluded that the explosion that killed five Harlan County miners last May was caused by methane gas that had been ignited by an acetylene cutting torch. An addendum has been attached to the report to reflect the response was received from MSHA.
OMSL’s intensive investigation was performed in cooperation with MSHA. Both agencies have separate authority to conduct post-accident investigations.
“We received cooperation from federal officials throughout the investigation,” said Teresa J. Hill, secretary of the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, parent agency of OMSL. “Mining fatalities require our fullest attention and having two different agencies perform separate investigations helps to ensure accidents will be prevented in the future.”
“The cooperation between the agencies was evidenced by the fact that preliminary interviews of Darby employees by OMSL investigators were observed by an MSHA employee and transcripts of the interviews were provided to federal investigators,” said Susan Bush, commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources. “OMSL investigators also participated in MSHA’s formal interview process.”
State investigators believe two of the miners were using the torch to cut and remove a metal roof strap that intersected a seal in a return-air passage 3,200 feet inside the mine. The seal had been poorly constructed, according to the report, and was leaking methane.