BIG STONE GAP, Va. — A Grundy coal company, its owner and a foreman were sentenced in U.S. District Court yesterday for conspiring to falsify dust samples in an effort to get around the mine safety laws.
D&H Mining; owner-operator Daniel Tucker, 57, of Russell County; and foreman Gerald Ball, 39, of Russell County, each pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to defraud the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The mining company also pleaded guilty to a willful violation of the Mine Act.
“Enforcing the mandatory dust standards is a top priority for the Mine Safety and Health Administration,” MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo said. “These standards are important in reducing black lung disease in this country and they provide an effective framework to hold operators accountable when they are violated. The Department of Justice has done great work in enforcing these crucial standards and protecting miners.”
Court records show the men and the mine admitted to hanging monitors in fresh air when they approached dust limits, and to programming miners’ personal dust monitors to shut off one hour before their shifts ended.
During sentencing, D&H Mining was placed on probation for one year. Tucker was sentenced to three months in prison and an $80,000 fine. Ball was sentenced to three years’ probation.
“As this case illustrates, the Department of Justice is committed to protecting our nation’s coal miners,” Western District of Virginia U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute unscrupulous owners and operators who jeopardize miners’ well being by cutting corners and putting profits ahead of safety.”