Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 8:21 am
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Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain.
He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.
After the Kentucky General Assembly cut the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing budget by more than $4 million, Governor Steve Beshear is mandating it to restructure. The office will become the Division of Mine Safety under the Department of Natural Resources effective June 1.
The Kentucky Senate will likely restore funding to conduct coal mine inspections in the state budget.
Currently, mines get six state inspections a year. A previous draft of the budget cut the number to two. Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber will likely restore funding for six inspections.