Darby Fork No 1 Mine
Darby Fork No 1 Mine is an underground coal mine located approximately 26 miles east of Harlan, Kentucky, on State Route 38. The mine is operated by Kentucky Darby, LLC, of Middlesboro, Kentucky, under contract with Jericol Mining, Inc., of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. The Kentucky Darby, LLC articles of organization list Ralph Napier, John D. North, and Connie G. Napier as members of the limited liability company. The principal official at the mine is Ralph Napier, who is the superintendent and the person in charge of health and safety.
The mine began production on May 28, 2001, in the Darby coal seam, which has an average thickness of 56 inches.
Cause of the Explosion
Of the explosion, the U.S. Mine Safety Rescue Association wrote that: "A methane explosion occurred behind the seals at A Left, which was caused by the cutting of a metal roof strap that passed through the No. 3 Seal. The forces from the explosion resulted in fatal injuries to the two miners and complete destruction of the seals. Forces from the explosion also damaged conveyor belt structure, roof supports, and ventilation controls."
As reported in a May 23, 2006 story in The Courier-Journal, spokesman for Kentucky's Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet Chuck Wolfe announced that investigators entered the mine for the first time since the explosion on May 22, 2006. He said that Tracy Stumbo, chief investigator at the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, was “pretty satisfied it was a methane explosion...Our chief investigator said he had no reason to think coal dust was a factor.”
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher told reporters on May 22, 2006, as he left the Capitol to attend funeral visitation for the victims, “I think we have a preliminary cause right now, and that’s an explosion that occurred from a contained area that apparently was leaking...That’s why we went about setting a new protocol to check all of the non-conventional containment procedures. So we’re fairly confident that is where the explosion began.”
Safety procedures violated
The U.S. Mine Safety Rescue Association states on its website that "The accident occurred because the operator did not observe basic mine safety practices and because critical safety standards were violated. Mine management failed to ensure that proper seal construction procedures were utilized in the building of the seals at the A Left Section. Mine management also failed to ensure that safe work procedures were used while employees attempted to make corrections to an improperly constructed seal. Furthermore, mine management failed to adequately train miners in proper SCSR usage and escapeway routes."
In its report on the disaster, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded: "The accident occurred because the operator did not observe basic mine safety practices and because critical safety standards were violated. Mine management failed to ensure that proper seal construction procedures were utilized in the building of the seals at the A Left Section. Mine management also failed to ensure that safe work procedures were used while employees attempted to make corrections to an improperly constructed seal. Furthermore, mine management failed to adequately train miners in escapeway routes and proper SCSR usage.
Kentucky Darby was fined $342,000 for six violations of safety standards. In 2009, MSHA officials sued the company to try to collect the penalties. Kentucky Darby is still listed as not having paid the fine. The miners were Amon Brock, Jimmy Lee, Roy Middleton, George Petra, and Paris Thomas. Injured in the disaster was miner Paul Ledford.
- MSHA ID: 1502263
- Operator: Kentucky Darby LLC
- Controller: Kentucky Darby LLC
- County: Harlan
- State: KY
- Latitude: 36.87
- Longitude: -83.01
- 2007 Production (short tons): 647,377
- Coal Type: Bituminous
- Mining Method: Underground
- Mine Status: Active
- Average No. of Employees: 105
Articles and resources
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To see a listing of coal mines in a particular state, click on the map:
- "Mine Accidents and Disasters: Darby 1 Mine" U.S. Mine Safety Rescue Association, accessed May 2011.
- "http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ig5LJgqRLxQqyXPWGKvfaFjqL_swD9FCS7O00" Google, April 29, 2010.
- Samuel Davidson, "Lack of oxygen supplies killed three in Kentucky mine disaster" International Committee of the Fourth International, May 24, 2006.
- Ken Ward Jr., "The Kentucky Darby Disaster, May 20, 2006" Coal Tattoo, May 20, 2011.
- "Major U.S. Coal Mines," Energy Information Administration