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Report: Fatal KY mine collapse in March was the result of roof support failure

In March, a man died after a large section of a mine's roof collapsed. The mine was owned by Inmet Mining.

HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. — In late March 2022, a mine collapsed in Harlan County and killed a miner. The mine was owned by Inmet Mining but was originally licensed to Lone Mountain Processing in 1993.

James D. Brown, a roof bolter from Lynch with 13 years of experience, was 14,000 feet underground and an hour into his shift when a roof collapsed, according to the Kentucky Energy And Environment Cabinet. Crews recovered his body around 9 p.m. the next day, the EEC said. 

In a fatal accident report obtained by WBIR, the roof support system meant to extend far enough into a band of sandstone did punch through a thick band of shale, resulting in weak support.

It said the size of the collapse spanned 20 feet in width, 50 feet in length and around 5 feet in height. The immediate section of the roof was made of shale, with 5-foot roof supports. They did not extend into the secondary layer of sandstone above the shale, according to the support.

The report said that the roof support system had initially been installed by Lone Mountain Processing.

The report said that when the roof collapsed, the workers at the D-29 Darby Fork mine in Holmes Mill were preparing to relocate an electrical distribution box so more coal pillars could be extracted. The report said Brown was in the process of turning off the freshwater line valve while other workers removed stoppers from behind the power center.

They said the stoppers appeared to be unintentionally acting as standing support for the mine roof, so when they were removed the roof lost some of its support and collapsed.

The report recommended examining the mine roof and ribs before performing work on the mine. They also said frequent roof evaluations should be conducted to make sure there is adequate support.

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