An equipment related incident claimed the life of one miner Tuesday in a coal mining accident in central Utah.
Six-year company worker, Alejandro Ramirez, 46, of Price, UT, died in the incident, said Gary Broadbent, spokesman for mine operator UtahAmerican Energy Inc.
A Carbon County sheriff’s dispatcher said the 911 call reporting the accident arrived at 1:35 a.m. from the West Ridge Mine near the community of East Carbon. Officials pronounced Ramirez dead at the scene. No other miners were hurt.
East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard said one his officers had been told the victim had been “crushed,” either in a cave-in or by machinery operating inside the mine.
Broadbent, spokesman for mine operator UtahAmerican Energy Inc., said they ruled out a cave-in or rock fall. “It was an equipment-related accident,” he said.
Broadbent could not provide further details about the accident, noting it is under investigation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
However, Broadbend said the accident was the first involving serious injury in the company’s history at the West Ridge Mine.
In a statement, the company expressed “sincere condolences and prayers to the Ramirez family.” Broadbent also said the mine closed Tuesday as a result of the accident.
UtahAmerican Energy Inc. is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., one of the largest privately-owned coal companies in the United States.
Annually, Murray Energy produces about 65 million tons of bituminous coal from properties in Utah, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
MSHA records show the West Ridge Mine employed 205 people at mid-year, 173 working underground. Those job numbers are down from 2011, when the mine employed 300 and its annual production was 3.56 million tons. At the end of June, the mine was on pace to produce just 2.2 million tons of coal this year.
Before Tuesday’s fatal accident, the mine had reported only two injuries so far in 2014, giving it an accident incidence rate (1.55) that was half of the national average (3.13).
MSHA records show over the past 10 years, the lost-time injury rate at West Ridge exceeded the national average seven times. It far surpassed the national average in each of the last three years, when it reported 54 injuries, according to MSHA.