Another Violation-Ridden Mine Death, Another ‘Wildcat Coal Lodge’ Baron Scandal

Jeff Biggers May 1, 2010

Once again, our hearts and prayers go out to the families of coal miners–this time in western Kentucky–as reports emerge of a mine collapse at the Alliance Resource Partners’ Dotiki Mine in Hopkins County, Kentucky.

According to AP, one coal miner has died; another coal miner is missing. (Update: The second miner was found dead yesterday, according to the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.)

Once again, the nation is witnessing the deadly toll of coal mining on our miners and coalfields in an industry contemptuous of laws and regulations.

Miners waited at the entrance to the Webster County Coal Dotiki Mine No. 4 property in Nebo Thursday. One miner died and another was missing after a roof collapse at an underground coal mine with a long history of safety problems, officials said Thursday. (PHOTO: AP/Mark Humphrey)

And once again, an infamous coal baron–this time, Joseph Craft III, CEO of Oklahoma-based Alliance, who turned the hallowed University of Kentucky basketball confines into a national embarrassment as “Wildcat Coal Lodges” and the “Joe Craft Center” and now graces the UKY walls in the Gatton College Alumni Hall of Fame–is exposed for putting production and profit over safety.

According to the Herald-Leader, the Dotiki Mine has “received 2,973 citations,” over the past five years, of which, “968 were considered significant and substantial.” The Herald-Leader added:

The Dotiki operator was cited 216 times so far in 2010, according to MSHA’s Web site. In 2009, the company was cited 649 times, more than the 458 citations issued last year against the West Virginia mine that blew up April 5 killing 29. On April 13, MSHA cited the operator for not notifying it quickly of an accident and for not preserving an accident site.

While his mines operated in violation of MSHA regulations and laws, Craft made national headlines last October by making a 19th century backroom deal with University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr to rename the beloved Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge as the Wildcat Coal Lodge for a price tag of $7 million.

Over at the Coal Tattoo blog, Charleston Gazette journalist Ken Ward has done a great breakdown of Alliance’s infractions of the past several years, including a “quick check of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration reports revealed seven such incidents that claimed nine lives in the last five years alone” in Alliance’s non-unions mines.”

As always, hope dies last in the coalfields, and our heart and prayers and actions must support all coal miners and their families until these lawless practices of violation-ridden operations end.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on April 29.

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