MINING company says it will resume production next week

Friday, September 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HARTFORD, Ark. (AP) _ Maintenance work on a coal mine shaft where a miner was killed should be finished and production should resume next week, the company says.

Mid-America Mining and Development Inc. reopened the Wilkem No. 1 mine south of Fort Smith near the Oklahoma border this year after it had been abandoned by another company about 10 years ago.

Justin Morgan, 38, of Mansfield died Aug. 31 when a foot-thick slab of rock fell from the roof of the mine and crushed him. Morgan was the first underground coal miner killed in Arkansas in 23 years, officials said.

Jim Robertson, 42, of Spiro, Okla., was injured. He was treated for shock then taken to a Fort Smith hospital where he was treated and released.

Ray Parker, chief operating officer for Mid-America, said production will resume Monday at the mine. ``Once the maintenance work is complete, we will start to produce coal,'' he said. ``We are now ready to go back to work.''

The mine's 16-member crew attended Morgan's funeral Tuesday then returned to work Wednesday for a mandatory safety meeting, Parker said. The crew spent the rest of the week cleaning debris left from the fallen rock.

Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators finished an onsite accident report Sunday. MSHA is the enforcement agency responsible for issuing any citations regarding the accident.

Rodney Brown, MSHA spokesman, said a complete investigation should be released late October. The company has not been issued any citations, he said.

Coal has been mined in Arkansas more than 100 years, but there has been little underground activity since the Federal Coal Mine and Safety Act of 1969 imposed tough safety standards on mining companies. Most recent mining in the state was done above ground until this year when Mid-America reopened its mine.