The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 12, 2012

W.Va. moves to unlicense Upper Big Branch foreman


The Associated Press

— West Virginia mine safety officials are moving to revoke the license of an Upper Big Branch mine foreman they say didn’t turn on his methane detector when he was supposed to be checking for the explosive gas.

The Charleston Gazette says a hearing for Jeremy Burghduff is set for May 15 before the state Coal Mine Safety Board of Appeals.

An explosion at the former Massey Energy mine killed 29 men on April 5, 2010.

The state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training alleges Burghduff had his gas detector off in late March and early April 2010, including the day of the blast. They also say he failed to carry an emergency air pack at all times, as required by law.

A phone listing for Burghduff was out of service Thursday.

The revelations about Burghduff’s alleged failures were disclosed in a report by an independent investigation team last year. It also concluded that disabling methane monitors and faking test results were common practices.

State regulators previously cited foremen Terry Moore and Ricky Foster for failing to address accumulations of explosive coal dust. Under state law, they face $250 fines.

The mine’s former superintendent, meanwhile, recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government for his actions at the mine. Gary May, the highest-ranking mine official charged in the blast so far, is cooperating with federal prosecutors in a continuing investigation.

Former security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is appealing his conviction and a three-year sentence for lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy documents.