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MSHA News Release No. 95-017
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452

May 9, 1995


The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and United Coal Co. of Bristol, Va., today announced an innovative "partnership in mine safety" agreement which will promote increased safety efforts at 26 small coal mines operated by United production contractors in Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, J. Davitt McAteer and United Coal Co. President W. David Wampler jointly announced the agreement during a tour of the company's training center in Grundy, Va.

"This agreement represents the highest levels of corporate responsibility and good government working together and working effectively for the American miner," said McAteer. "It also reflects a genuine concern about miner safety and health on the part of United Coal and represents a strong commitment to take definitive actions that will elevate the level of safety at their production operations."

Under the agreement, the United Coal Co. Training Department (UCCTD) will conduct quarterly audits of the safety records, violations history and civil penalty compliance records for the independent production contractors to determine the overall safety and health performance of each mining operation. United has committed to work in the future only with production contractors who have a responsible compliance record.

Also, UCCTD will provide each current production contractor with a comprehensive array of training required at both the state and federal level. In addition, United will provide each of its production contractors with technical assistance in the preparation of required mine plans such as those for roof control, mine ventilation, and training.

"This program is a model for others in the mining industry to follow," continued McAteer. "This arrangement should be seen as a positive step toward dramatic improvements in mine safety and health at mining operations across the nation."

MSHA will assist United Coal in this program by providing data such as detailed violation history reports for company contractors, accident and injury data, civil penalty information, as well as all information relating to citations issued to any company production operator.

MSHA will also make available agency resources through the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, W.Va., and other technical divisions to assist in the development of training programs and materials. MSHA district officials will meet periodically with United Coal representatives to assess the effectiveness of the program and make suggestions on any necessary program revisions.

United Coal Co. currently has production agreements with contractors at 21 mining operations in Virginia and five in Kentucky.

Recent statistics have shown that the nation's small underground coal mines have fatality rates several times higher than those of larger mines.