Last updated: July 18. 2013 2:16PM - 325 Views
Rachel Baldwin
Civitas Media Service

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A worker at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine has agreed to surrender his underground assistant foreman license for three years.

The agreement settles allegations that Jeremy L. Burghduff didn’t turn on his methane detector when he was supposed to check for the explosive gas.

An explosion at the former Massey Energy mine killed 29 miners on April 5, 2010. The state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training had alleged that Burghduff had his gas detector off in late March and early April 2010, including the day of the explosion.

Under the agreement, Burghduff will keep his underground miner license. He can apply for licenses for assistant underground or surface foreman, or belt examiner at the end of the three-year period.

It also prohibits Burghduff from working as an assistant foreman or belt examiner, either at a surface or an underground mine. Nor can he work as a surface construction supervisor. He can, however, seek certification to work as an apprentice electrician, a shot firer or a surface miner.

Four investigations found the blast was sparked by worn and broken equipment, fueled by accumulations of methane gas and coal dust and allowed to spread because of clogged and broken water sprayers. Investigators also found “systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts” to hide problems and throw off inspectors including the falsification of safety records.

Managers also alerted miners when inspectors arrived allownig time to disguise or temporily fix dangerous conditions.

Former superintendent Gary May and security chief Hughie Elbert Stover are behind bars for their actions at the mine.

A former president of another Massey subsidiary, meanwhile, is awaiting sentencing for conspiracy June 25 in Beckley, David Craig Hughart, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the continuing criminal probe, has testified that advance warnings were a widespread company practice

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