Two Sentenced for Cheating on Coal Mine Dust Sampling

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Last week, in United States District Court in Louisville, Kentucky, Steve DeMoss and Ron Ivy, two former mine managers, were sentenced for repeatedly violating the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) regulations requiring accurate respirable coal-dust-sampling in underground coal mines. Respirable coal dust causes coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or black lung disease. Black lung is a progressive and irreversible disease leading to lung failure and death. Yet it is preventable by reducing the levels of respirable coal dust to which miners are exposed.

Starting in 2013 and continuing through 2015, DeMoss and Ivy were Safety Directors at Parkway and Kronos mines operated by the Armstrong Coal Company. As Safety Directors, they oversaw the required regular dust-sampling that would ensure that the mines’ ventilation and engineering controls were adequate to keep respirable coal dust at safe levels. Mine operators can lower respirable dust by adjusting air flow in the mine and by using water sprays and other engineering controls. Mine operators must also comply with MSHA’s dust regulations, which require regular testing of the air where miners are actually working to ensure respirable coal dust is at safe levels. Both DeMoss and Ivy, rather than conducting the dust-sampling as required for full shifts, repeatedly took the dust-sampling monitors off miners wearing them. DeMoss and Ivy would then move the monitors out of the dusty working areas and into areas with clean air in an attempt to ensure the monitors would not register elevated dust levels.

DeMoss, 52, of Hopkins County, was sentenced to six months of probation for removing dust-sampling devices from miners before the end of the designated sampling period.

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Ivy, 53, of Hopkins County, was sentenced to six months of probation for removing dust-sampling devices from miners before the end of the designated sampling period.

“We will continue to aggressively prosecute those whose actions violate safety regulations put in place to protect the health of our coal miners,” stated United States Attorney Michael A. Bennett.  “I commend the work of the prosecutors assigned to this case and the investigators from the MSHA’s Madisonville District Office who worked tirelessly to investigate the violations.” 

“The Department of Labor is committed to protecting the health and safety of Kentucky’s miners,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Working with our partners at the MSHA and the Department of Justice, we will continue to investigate and prosecute those who put coal miners at risk by ignoring critical health and safety requirements.”

The investigation of the case was conducted by MSHA’s Madisonville District Office.

Western District of Kentucky Assistant United States Attorney Corinne Keel and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Jason Grover and Dana Ferguson from the Department of Labor prosecuted the case for the United States.

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