by Ellen Smith 

A supervisor was hurt in a roof fall December 10, 2008 at a six-employee anthracite mine that owes more than $100,000 in delinquent civil penalties, MSHA  records showed.  The foreman at S & M Coal Co.’s Buck Mountain Slope  in Dauphin County, Pa., met loose roof while he was working alone in a heading,  according to a preliminary report. Mining height in the operation is about 3-feet.  He placed temporary roof jack about 5 feet 5 inches back from  the face.  At that point, however, a chunk of rock came down between him  and the roof jack.  The 5-inch thick slab, measuring about 3 feet by 2-feet, hit  him on the shoulder.  He felt his back “pop.”   The injured miner shouted  for help.  Co-workers found him lying on his back, clear of the fallen rock.  They  placed him on a stretcher and took him to the surface, where ambulance personnel  treated him and drove him to a hospital.  MSHA is investigating. 

Last June MSHA investigated another roof fall injury at the same mine  [incident notice here] and cited three alleged contributory iolations, later assessing penalties of  $1,688.  The fines are listed as delinquent. 

The miner in that accident sustained  a concussion and a leg injury.   The mine had not paid a civil penalty on  even one of some 90 violations cited and assessed by MSHA since 2002, the agency  database indicated.  All but five penalties were past their payment deadline.  Fourteen involved alleged unwarrantable failures to comply.  Penalties  described as delinquent totaled more than $108,000, dating from 2004 to 2008.  Other unpaid fines of more than $3,000 from as far back as 1995 were marked as  closed-out without payment.  MSHA listed as non-assessable 13 citations issued at  the mine in 2002 and 2003.

Mine owner Darryl Koperna took over the  operation in June 2006, according to the MSHA database.  More than $98,000 in  delinquent penalties for 42 alleged violations had accumulated since that date.  Eleven of the violations involved alleged unwarrantable failures to comply.  The mine has produced since at least 1995 with several interruptions,  the last during 2005-2006.  Last year’s annual production of 3,646 tons was the highest for the mine in that period.  Based in Tower City, Pa., S &  M Coal currently has only one operating mine.  S & M’s Buck Mountain Slope is  different from the R&D Coal Co. mine in Schuylkill County also known as Buck  Mountain Slope, site of a fatal blasting incident in 2006.

Ellen Smith is the publisher and managing editor of Mine Safety and Health News.  She has been covering mining issues since 1987 and has won 23 journalism awards for her reporting.