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Lawmaker’s mine was cited




FRANKFORT

A Kentucky lawmaker pushing to reduce the number of medics required at small mines owns a mine that was cited last year for not having the personnel on duty.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this week that state inspectors last year cited the mine owned by Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall of Phelps in eastern Kentucky for not having a mine emergency technician on duty.

State law requires two medics on duty at underground coal mines when miners are digging coal.

Hall is sponsoring a bill in the state legislature that would cut from two to one the number of medics required at coal mines that employ fewer than 18 people, criteria that would apply to his mine. The legislation is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

The lawmaker is president and owner of Beech Creek Coal Co., which owns the underground coal reserves at a mine being operated by Kimara Coal Co.

The newspaper reported that the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing cited Kimara last Aug. 19 for having neither a medic nor a foreman at the mine.

About two hours after the citation, a foreman and two medics arrived at the mine, so the problem was considered resolved, according to state records. The Office of Mine Safety and Licensing on Monday declined to provide more information.

The legislature added the requirement for two medics in 2007 after a series of miner deaths.

Hall told the newspaper Monday that the situation shows how difficult it is for small coal companies to keep two medics on duty. He said the law has created a hardship for several small companies he has heard from.

Kimara co-owner John Biliter said the mine employs seven to eight miners per shift.

Biliter said one medic didn’t come to work the day the mine was cited, and the other, who doubled as the foreman, abruptly resigned that day.

Steve Earle, a United Mine Workers of America representative in Kentucky, called on Hall to pull the bill from consideration.

“I think Mr. Hall clearly has a conflict of interest here,” Earle said.

The legislation is HB 119.


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