West Virginia mine had history of safety problems
WHARTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia coal mine where two miners were killed last night is one of just three mines in the country to have made a federal list of the industry's worst safety offenders.
The mine in Wharton was cited for nearly 200 safety violations over the past year -- including more than 30 for showing a high or reckless disregard for miners' health and safety.
It's not clear whether any of the violations could have had anything to do with last night's collapse of a mine floor during a coal burst. That's the violent failure of a roof, pillar or wall of coal along a passage inside a mine. Coal bursts have been a hazard for decades.
The burst occurred during retreat mining operations, when pillars that support the roof are collapsed and removed from a mined area.
The mine is owned by a subsidiary of Patriot Coal. In its annual report last December, the company blamed the safety problems on a previous owner, and said it was challenging the mine's inclusion on a list of "pattern violators."