Supervisor had concerns before Consol slurry impoundment fell in - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Supervisor had concerns before Consol slurry impoundment fell in

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The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training has cited Consolidation Coal Co. for the coal slurry impoundment collapse that killed one in November.

The haulage road on the coarse refuse dump area was not safe to drive on, according to the agency's July 10 report on the incident.

"This is a violation of a Health and Safety statute of serious nature involving a fatality," the report reads.

In the November 30 incident at the Robinson Run mine in Harrison County, experienced miner Markel J. Koon, age 58, was running a bulldozer on the haulage road about noon when the dump site cracked and failed, sweeping the dozer, with Koon, into the impoundment.

The report details evidence that the location was not safe.

Consolidation Coal engineer Paul Stuart Carter had received numerous email messages from supervisor Michael Friedline over the previous week about high readings on a piezometer on the upstream slope, according to the report. A piezometer measures water pressure and is used to monitor stability of a dam.

Carter arrived at the mine at about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, and the two walked the slope and noticed bubbling — more, in Friedline's observation, than even that morning.  Carter said, "we need to get off the fill." Friedline instructed Koon by radio to leave the fill, and Koon had begun moving the dozer when a large crack began to develop. Large sections immediately broke off, sliding into the thick slurry and carrying Friedline, Carter, their pickup trucks, and the bulldozer and Koon with it.

Friedline and Carter were quickly rescued. The recovery of Koon's body on Dec. 14 concluded an extensive recovery operation.

The section that failed, according to the report, was more than 600 feet long, 50 feet wide and 24 feet high. The depth of slurry where the dozer came to rest was 27 feet.

In addition to citing the company, Miners Health Safety and Training recommended the company train employees on hazards of working near water, and that life jackets should be worn by all employees working near water.

It is not clear whether that would have helped Koon.

Further recommendations may be issued when all of the information has been reviewed, the report said.