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Talk of the bay

Mining tragedy draws parallels with Walter accident

Published January 9, 2006

In September 2001, 13 miners died in an accident in a Brookwood, Ala., coal mine owned by Walter Industries. That left the Tampa company better able than most to relate to last week's mining tragedy in Sago, W.Va., where 12 miners died and one was critically injured. Walter's experience following the 2001 accident may give some clues as to what International Coal Group Inc., the Ashland, Ky., owner of the Sago mine, will face.

Family members of the deceased Alabama miners filed wrongful death lawsuits against Walter. A year ago, the two sides reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount. In June 2003, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Walter more than $400,000 for eight safety violations that "directly contributed" to the 2001 accident. The company subsequently appealed the fine. In November, an administrative law judge threw out six of the eight safety violations and slashed the fines to $3,000.

Walter spokesman Mike Monahan declined to comment on what lessons International Coal Group might draw from Walter's experience. Monahan said "our thoughts and prayers" are with the victims and their families, adding that "we probably know as well as anyone that that's what they need right now."

[Last modified January 7, 2006, 16:57:02]

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