Keeping Coal Miners Safe

Coal mining is hazardous enough when safety rules are followed to the letter. When they are broken, the risk increases – and that is unacceptable.

Both coal companies and their employees sometimes are guilty of infractions. Most of the time they are unintentional. Even then, penalties are used by state and federal agencies to deter unsafe behavior.

But when the rules are broken intentionally, by either miners or their employers, punishment should be swift and severe.

A Spencer, W.Va., resident, Sean A. Chase, is accused of falsifying safety records and lying about his qualifications at the Tunnel Ridge Mine here in Ohio County. Chase, 31, was indicted by a grand jury.

Chase claimed to be a qualified mine foreman, competent under the law to conduct mine safety examinations, according to the office of U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld. But Chase is not a qualified foreman, according to prosecutors.

He is charged with 29 counts of making false representations and certifications in mine safety records. Each charge carries with it the potential for as many as five years in prison, along with fines of as much as $10,000.

If Chase is guilty as charged, he jeopardized many miners – most of them residents of our area – at the Tunnel Ridge Mine. That ought to infuriate them, their families and their neighbors in the extended Ohio Valley community.

Good for all involved for taking notice of the alleged crimes and following up with prosecution.

Again, putting miners at risk is unacceptable. It should not and cannot be tolerated.