Just half way through the year, coal mining deaths are mounting.

That’s true nationally, and at the state level for fatal accidents.

Eight miners have died on the job in 2017 in the U.S. and more than half lost their lives in West Virginia mines.

West Virginia recorded its fifth coal mining fatality Tuesday at a Boone County operation near Wharton owned by Rockwell Mining LLC.

Rodney Osborne, 32, of Artie, was operating a continuous miner at the Gateway Eagle Mine shortly before his death at 8:47 p.m., according to a news release from the state Department of Commerce.

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training confirmed the fatality, and an investigation by agency inspectors is underway.

Osborne was “pinned by the (continuous miner) machine cutter head against the coal mine resulting in fatal injuries,” according to information contained in the agency’s preliminary post.

Parent company Blackhawk Mining LLC, which is headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, released a short statement acknowledging the fatality and expressing condolences to the victim’s family.

Chief financial officer Jesse Parrish said Thursday no additional information was available.  He declined to say if the mine is still closed.

Blackhawk Mining held a job fair in Raleigh County earlier this spring aimed at hiring underground miners for the company’s operations in southern West Virginia.

There were eight coal miner deaths nationally in 2016 which was a historic low.

But federal officials say limited experience among the miners who’ve died this year is a concern.

That’s because the victims had less than a year working in a mine or doing the particular task they were assigned at the time of their death.

Tim Watkins, deputy administrator for  Coal Mine Safety and Health, said last week that an initiative will be launched to talk to miners to try to determine if there are training deficiencies, The Associated Press reported.

He spoke last week at a stakeholders meeting held in near Beckley.

State records document the accidents that claim miners’ lives, and a couple of investigations have already been completed for this year’s fatalities but others are ongoing.

West Virginia’s first fatality stemmed from a Feb. 3 incident at Greenbrier Minerals LLC, Elk Lick Loadout in Logan County. Driver Franklin L. Vannoy Jr., 54, of Delbarton, died one week later from complications of injuries he received when the truck he was driving overturned.

Vannoy had been employed by Stacy Equipment and Repairs Inc. for a total of three days when he was injured in the coal truck accident.


A state investigation is continuing into a Feb. 23 incident at CK Coal Corporation, CK Mine No. 5 near Williamson in Mingo County where a piece of the roof struck the section foreman. He died on April 6 as a result of complications from his injuries.

Dennis J. Fillinger, 62, of Harts, died from injuries he received when struck by a piece of falling rock.

An investigative report has been issued for the Feb. 27 incident at Justice Low Seam Mining, JC “Jim” II Prep Plant in McDowell County.

Victim Jason Kenneth Matthews, 43, of Bluefield, Va.,  had approximately three months experience at the prep plant when he fell approximately 18 feet onto a moving conveyor belt.

A May 18 incident at Pinnacle Mining Company LLC, Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County near Pineville is still under investigation. The victim was fatally injured while operating a trolley-powered track locomotive.

Luches Fierre “Big Lou” Rosser, 44, of Man, was employed as a shuttle car operator at the time of his death.