CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mingo County man early Friday morning became the 12th U.S. coal miner to die on the job in 2012.Johnny Mack Bryant II, 35, of Lenore, was crushed to death when he became pinned between a mine wall and the boom of a continuous mining machine, according to information from state and federal agencies.The incident occurred at about 4:15 a.m. at Coal River Mining LLC's Fork Creek No. 10 Mine, near the intersection of the Boone, Kanawha and Lincoln county lines south of Charleston.Bryant was part of a crew that was setting up the continuous mining machine for the upcoming day shift when the accident occurred, according to Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.Lawder said that Bryant "received fatal crushing injuries when he was reportedly caught between the conveyor boom of the continuous mining machine" and the mine wall.Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, said that Bryant had one year and 14 weeks of experience as a miner, with all of it at the Fork Creek No. 10 operation.
Fork Creek No. 10 is a relatively small underground mine, producing 670,000 tons of coal last year with 90 employees. Mine operator Coal River Mining is controlled by James O. Bunn and Franklin D. Robertson, according to MSHA records.In each of the last two years, Fork Creek No. 10 recorded accident rates worse than the national average for similar types of mines, according to MSHA data. Coal River Mining was cited by MSHA following a fatal accident at another operation in 2005, agency records show.Between 1984 and 2011, at least 33 miners were killed nationwide in crushing or pinning accidents that involved the operation of remote control continuous mining machines.MSHA chief Joe Main proposed a rule to begin requiring mine operators to install "proximity detection" devices that would shut off mining machines when they get too close to workers.MSHA says the proposal has net benefits of $2.5 million per year, when the costs of new equipment are weighed against the benefits of reduced injuries and deaths. West Virginia coal industry lobbyists have complained MSHA is moving too quickly to require the devices.A final version of the rule has been awaiting approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget for months.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at email@example.com or 304-348-1702.