One confirmed dead in collapse of idle coal prep plant in Martin County

Published 9:36 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

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By Liam Niemeyer

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in Martin County Wednesday morning after an idle coal preparation plant collapsed on two people who had been working inside, killing at least one of them.

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A Kentucky Emergency Management release Wednesday identified the collapsed building as the Martin Mine Prep Plant near Middlefork Wolfe Creek Road.

The Mountain Citizen had reported the search and rescue teams were searching for two men trapped inside the idle Excel/Pontiki Coal Preparation Plant that had collapsed Tuesday afternoon. The men were employees of a company that is dismantling the structure, the Inez-based newspaper reported. The prep plant is near the community of Pilgrim in southeastern Kentucky.

Beshear in a post on the social media platform X said at least one of the trapped workers inside the collapsed plant had died.

“Please pray for the family and loved ones of this individual,” Beshear said on social media.

The Mountain Citizen reported first responders came as far as Pikeville after the county sheriff made requests for aid. First responders had made contact with one of the men last night.

The Excel/Pontiki Coal Preparation Plant is at the site of the former Pontiki coal mine, which Alliance Resource Partners closed in 2013 due to weak market conditions for new coal sales at the time.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Spokesperson John Mura in a statement Wednesday said the West Virginia-based Lexington Coal Company, which has a permit for the former mine site, was in charge of reclaiming it including the demolition of the Pontiki preparation plant.

Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet spokesperson Jill Midkiff in a statement said the Kentucky Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance has an investigation open into Lexington Coal Company and the workplace death, which the company had contracted Skeens Enterprises LLC for the demolition operations.

Midkiff in her statement said a compliance officer is at the mine site collaborating with first responders and that an ongoing investigation into the death could take up to six months.