June 21, 2022 | Benna Hughes

Kentucky Coal Miner Dead After D-29 Darby Fork Mine Collapse

In processing an ABC News report and an Associated Press article, on March 22, 2022, I reacted to the sad message that no mining company wants to have to say — that crews have recovered the body of the missing coal miner from the D-29 Darby Fork mine. 

In the case of this fatality, the missing coal miner was 33-year-old James D. Brown, a Kentucky miner who was missing after a roof collapsed deep underground, officials said; he was recovered at the D-29 Darby Fork mine in Harlan County. 

According to the report, Brown began his shift as a roof bolt operator late Sunday at the mine, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said. The roof fell about an hour later, more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the entrance.

The fatality at the D-29 Darby Fork mine was the sixth coal mining death in the U.S. this year and the second in Kentucky.

Brown wasn’t just a coal miner but also the father of three children and worked for more than a decade in mining. The family attorney is urging the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to allow a family representative to observe interviews conducted by accident investigators.

According to reporting, the mine is owned by Inmet Mining LLC, which is based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. According to Hunter Hobson, CEO of Inmet Mining, crews recovered the body after spending all day and night Monday searching for Brown. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with James’ family and also his coworkers at INMET,” Hobson said. “We were praying for a different outcome.”

The state cabinet said an equipment operator was nearby when the roof collapsed on Brown. 

All mine operations were shut down. The Kentucky Department for Natural Resources, Division of Mine Safety, sent investigators to the mine early Monday morning, the EEC said. Investigators are still looking into the cause of the collapse and how it could have been prevented.

While I haven’t seen a report on findings, I think the words that hit me the most in this article were “Investigators are still looking into the cause of the collapse and how it could have been prevented.” 

Could it have been prevented?

Yes, accidents happen, but very often they can be prevented. And that is what we (here at System Improvements) wish people would use TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis to do . . . be proactive versus reactive. Use TapRooT® RCA to prevent accidents and help workers get home to their families safe and sound. As a guided, expert human performance system that is used by major companies around the world, it asks the questions you may not know to ask and therefore finds things you may not have found so you can fix them before disaster strikes.

Photo credit: Image by Henryk Niestrój from Pixabay.

Circumstances can crop up anywhere at any time if proper and safe sequence and procedures are not planned and followed. We encourage you to learn and use the TapRooT® System to correctly and efficiently find and fix problems.

TapRooT® has a team of investigators and instructors with years of extensive training ready to offer assistance worldwide. We also offer ongoing support to our clients through free newsletters and root cause tip videos, the root cause analysis blog, and our annual Global TapRooT® Summit.

Register for one of the TapRooT® courses. We offer a basic 2-day course and an advanced 5-day course, as well as many other type courses.

Contact us or call 865.539.2139 about having a course at your site or for further root cause analysis opportunities. 

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Accident, Process Safety
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