Federal indictment: Black Diamond Coal accused of violating health and safety standards

Posted at 4:18 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 16:18:29-04

(LEX 18) — A federal indictment filed Wednesday accuses Black Diamond Coal, LLC, of willfully violating mandatory health and safety standards.

The indictment alleges that the mine failed to keep a continuous personal dust monitor, or CPDM, on a designated miner at Mine #1 in Floyd County. The CPDM is required to be worn by "miners performing specific jobs at specific locations" during a sampling period to monitor for respirable coal dust, which can cause medical problems like black lung.

The indictment also names Walter Perkins, a certified dust-sampler at Mine #1 who was in charge of sampling for coal dust. He’s accused of failing to run the monitor in the correct locations of the mine and instead running it “on the surface in clean air,” according to the indictment.

The company and Perkins are accused of giving false statements about the samples. Perkins is accused of telling a federal mine inspector investigating the operations at Mine #1 that he had assigned the CPDM to a miner for samples to be taken, but that the pump had malfunctioned.

“In fact, he knew that he never gave the CPDM to the miner operator and the CPDM did not have any malfunctions,” according to the indictment.

When asked by a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration special investigator why the CPDM had been run outside the mine, Perkins said that he’d taken the monitor in the mine that morning but had “brought it right back out because it had quit,” according to the indictment.

Perkins went on to tell the investigator that the miner carrying the monitor had “hollered at me, said the pump went off and said diagnosis failure,” according to the indictment.

But the indictment alleges that Perkins “knew that he never gave the CPDM to the miner operator, the operator never yelled at him, and the CPDM did not have any malfunctions.”

Black Diamond Coal is accused of certifying false statements and knowingly submitting CPDM data representing valid shift samples when the CPDM had not been worn by the designated miner in the mine as required by regulations, according to the indictment.

If convicted, Black Diamond Coal could face a fine of up to $250,000 on the charge of willfully violating health and safety standards and a fine of up to $200,000 on the charge of certifying a false record. Each count could also carry up to five years of probation.

Perkins faces three charges, two counts of making a false statement and one count of knowingly violating health and safety standards. If convicted, he could face up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count of making a false statement. For the count of violating health and safety standards, he could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.