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District 11

(Underground Coal Mine)

Fatal Rib Fall

Oak Grove Mine, I.D. No. 01-00851
U.S. Steel Mining Company, Incorporated
Adger, Jefferson County, Alabama

August 16, 1996


O. L. Jones
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 213, Birmingham, Alabama 35209
Michael J. Lawless, District Manager


The Oak Grove Mine is an underground coal mine operated by U. S. Steel Mining Company, Inc. The mine is located ten miles west of Concord, Jefferson County, Alabama, off Route 23. The mine opened in October 1972, and began production in May 1974, extracting coal from the Blue Creek coal seam which averages sixty (60) inches in height. The seam is at a depth of 1,091 feet.

The mine has six intake air shafts, one intake elevator air shaft, one material slope, one belt intake slope, and five return air shafts. The mine is ventilated by four (4) Joy H-120-65-D, 10-foot diameter exhaust fans, and one Jeffrey 8HU-117, 10-foot diameter exhaust fan with a total exhaust of 3.5 million cubic feet per minute (cfm).

The total methane liberation in a 24-hour period is approximately 12,000,000 cubic feet from exhaust fans, approximately 300,000 cubic feet from the degasification system, and 1,000,000 cubic feet through the vertical degasification system.

Roof support on development mining under normal roof conditions is 4-foot full resin grouted roof bolts on 5-foot centers with two (2) eight-foot full resin grouted roof bolts as supplementary support set between the rows.

A total of 436 persons are employed at this operation, with 401 underground personnel working three production shifts each day, five to six days per week with maintenance and repairs scheduled on weekends, as necessary. There are four (4) continuous mining machine sections on development driving longwall gate entries, and one (1) longwall section on retreat mining. Approximately 13,000 tons of coal are produced daily.

The last complete MSHA Safety and Health inspection was completed July 15, 1996. A regular MSHA Safety and Health inspection is presently being conducted which began on July 22, 1996.

Officials of U.S. Steel Mining Company, Incorporated are:
Ron Osborne.....................General Manager
Paul Hafera........................Superintendent
Mike Sumpter....................General Mine Foreman
Marty Hayes......................General Maintenance Foreman
J.R. Nogosky.....................Manager of Safety
Danny Richardson...............Senior Underground Mining Engineer

The employees at the mine are represented by the United Mine Workers of America. The Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee is James Bell.


On Friday, August 16, 1996, at approximately 3:00 p.m., the Main North Section crew, under the supervision of J. T. Williams, Section Foreman, entered the mine via the elevator shaft. The crew traveled via portal bus from the shaft bottom to the section, arriving at approximately 3:45 p.m.

Upon arriving at the section, Williams conducted a safety meeting and assigned the crew their duties. Williams instructed J. T. Baker (victim) and T. C. Perry, Roof Bolters, to contact the day shift roof bolters to obtain information on where the roof bolting machine was located.

A section power center move was being planned and Williams went to the power center and met Robert Cunningham, Area Manager. They discussed the intended power center move. Cunningham left the section as his shift was completed. Williams then went to the No. 3 entry where overcast construction was in progress. There he met Kenneth Harbin, Continuous Mining Machine Helper, and Harvey Bryant, Continuous Mining Machine Operator, who were replacing worn cutter bits.

Harbin and Williams visually examined the brow and roof in the No. 3 entry and detected no sign of loose, unsupported brows or damaged roof bolt plates. Williams and Baker talked about the brow and roof and reportedly Baker said the brow looked stable. Williams asked Baker if he had enough roof bolting materials to complete the roof bolting of the area. Baker replied that he had sent a fellow employee for additional materials. Baker was in the process of preparing a drill steel. Williams then went one crosscut outby the overcast to check on conveyor chain adjustments needed on a shuttle car. At the time someone (unknown) yelled that the section belt conveyor was not operating. Williams went to the section telephone to call and find out why the section belt was not operating. While using the telephone Williams heard a thump or bump. This was approximately 4:20 p.m. Williams then went towards the face area and encountered Harbin at the section loading point. Harbin informed him that Baker had been hit by the falling brow.

Another section was working one crosscut away. Williams saw someone and yelled for help. Williams then ran to the section telephone and called the surface and informed Cunningham of the accident and that an ambulance was needed.


  1. The mine roof was supported, as the section advanced, with 4 foot x 3/4 inch diameter full grouted resin roof bolts installed on 5 foot centers. Two eight foot full grouted resin roof bolts were installed between the rows. The 4 foot bolts were anchored in the Mary Lee Coal seam which lies above a 24 inch layer of middleman rock.

  2. Drilling and blasting of the mine roof to gain sufficient overcast height resulted in an area 12 feet high by 20 feet wide and approximately 130 feet in length. Normal mined height is 6 feet.

  3. The inby edge of the brow in the No. 3 entry was bolted with two 8 foot full resin grouted roof bolts and a row of 4 foot full resin grouted bolts.

  4. The brows of the overcast area were supported with a double row of timbers prior to blasting. The west brow was supported by these timbers during the investigation. The timbers in the center of the entry had been dislodged at the north brow, leaving timbers on the ribs of the entry.

  5. The timbers were removed from the south and east brows during the clean up by the remote controlled continuous mining machine.

  6. The brow that fell was approximately 14 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 30 inches thick and broke in three sections.

  7. The section of brow that struck the victim was approximately 7 feet long, 5 feet wide and 20 inches thick.

  8. The roof bolting crew involved in the accident were normally production roof bolters. It was the consensus of the investigating party that all employees were properly trained and well experienced to perform this work. Statements made by employees interviewed indicated they were properly trained and well experienced in the type of work being performed. There were in excess of twenty overcasts that had been constructed in this area of the mine.

    The plan for rehabilitation of the roof and brows in the area of the overcast were as follows.
    1. Clean up the blasted material with the remote controlled continuous mining machine from the south approach in the No. 3 entry.

    2. Clean the blasted material towards the east approach. Turn and clean the material towards the west approach as far as possible without the ram car operator going inby the second row of roof bolts outby the brow located in the No. 3 entry.

    3. Bring the roof bolting machine in to the east approach of the overcast area and install a double row of 8 foot by 3/4 inch fully grouted resin bolts in the east brow.

    4. Install 4 foot mechanical roof bolts in the roof area of the overcast where pre-drilled holes were located and proceed toward the west approach.

    5. Install 4 foot mechanical bolts in the pre-drilled holes inby to the west side of the intersection in the No. 3 entry.

    6. Turn and install roof bolts in the north and south brows in the No. 3 entry with a double row of 8 foot by 3/4 inch full resin grouted roof bolts.

  9. The roof bolts being installed at the time of the accident were 4 foot mechanically anchored roof bolts.

  10. The holes in which the mechanically anchored roof bolts were being installed were pre-drilled prior to the blasting of the overcast site.

  11. An examination conducted prior to work beginning in the area of the overcast revealed no evidence of the brow being loose or requiring additional support.


A fatal accident occurred when a brow rolled out while roof bolts were being installed in an overcast site. Visual examinations of the brow made prior to the accident did not detect the imminent condition.


  1. A 103-K Order Number 4478888 was issued to insure the safety of miners until the investigation was completed.

Respectfully submitted by:

O. L. Jones
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Michael J. Lawless
District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C21