A West Virginia coal miner died Friday in a fall in the state’s Northern Panhandle, Gov. Jim Justice said.
The death of 44-year-old Jeffrey A. Phillips is at least the third in the U.S. coal mining industry already this year. Other deaths have occurred this month in Indiana and Kentucky, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Phillips worked for contractor NextGen Industrial Services. The governor’s office said in a statement that Phillips fell while working above a beltline in the prep plant of an Ohio County Coal Co. mine in the Marshall County community of Benwood.
Benwood Police Chief Frank Longwell said the worker was not wearing a body harness and fell about 30 feet, The Wheeling Intelligencer and News-Register reported. The mine was down for maintenance and was not operating at the time.
The mine is operated by American Consolidated Natural Resources Holdings Inc. of St. Clairsville, Ohio. The company is the largest privately owned U.S. coal operator. It emerged from federal bankruptcy protection in 2020 and was formerly known as Murray Energy Holdings.
“Any time we lose one of our brave and important West Virginia coal miners, it’s a terrible thing,” said Justice in a news release. “Cathy and I are heartbroken for his loved ones and fellow miners. We ask that all West Virginians join us in keeping this man and his family in your prayers during this difficult time. We’d also ask you to remember and appreciate everyone who does this important work. We should never take for granted the strength and selflessness that it takes to go underground to keep the lights on for the people across our state and our nation.”