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Black Diamond Coal Company, employee sentenced in dust sampling case

Federal prosecutors say the employee falsified dust samples and lied to federal officials.
Credit: Ruslan Grumble - stock.adobe.com

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — A coal dust examiner who worked for a Kentucky mining company has been sentenced to six months in prison for falsifying dust samples and lying to federal officials.

Walter Perkins' employer, Black Diamond Coal Company, was placed on probation for two years for submitting false samples to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials, prosecutors said Thursday.

Coal dust sampling equipment is required to be worn by a miner while working underground, but Black Diamond took measurements from a monitor placed above ground, in a first aid trailer, according to a news release from the office of Carlton Shier, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Inspectors found the dust monitor after visiting Black Diamond's No. 1 mine on Oct. 8, 2020. Inspectors also said the company had submitted dust sampling levels that were “abnormally low,” according to officials.

Coal dust causes pneumoconiosis or black lung disease when inhaled by workers. Mines are required to reduce dust levels at mining sites.

Perkins, 45, was trained to monitor dust levels. Perkins told investigators the monitor was faulty, which turned out to be false. He will serve a six-month sentence and then six more months of home detention.

Black Diamond was ordered to pay a fine of $200,000 and must also pay restitution of $400 to any former miner who is no longer employed in the mining industry so that they can seek a medical screening for black lung disease. 

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