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Peabody Coal Co. Pleads Guilty To Dust Sample Violations

January 19, 1991

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ The world’s largest private coal company was fined $500,000 by the federal government for tampering with coal dust samples taken to protect miners’ health.

Peabody Coal Co. pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating a required testing program that is designed to keep dust concentrations low and thus prevent such respiratory diseases as pneumoconiosis, or black lung.

Peabody, based in St. Louis, was fined Thursday by U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. for three misdemeanor counts, the maximum penalty under the federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

The charges concerned tests made between October and December 1987, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Under a plea bargain, Peabody is immune from further prosecution for any previous dust sample tampering, the company said. The agreement also precludes prosecution for any violations in Ohio.

Richard Trumka, president of the United Mine Workers union, said he was pleased with the fine but believed problems remained.

″While today’s convictions once again prove that the coal industry is as incapable of policing itself today as it was 100 years ago, they bring little comfort to the miners who have died or will die because of a system which, for all intents and purposes, asks the fox to guard the chicken coop,″ he said.

″Our management was very disturbed to learn from the Mine Safety and Health Administration that some of our employees apparently tampered with dust samples,″ Peabody said in a statement.

The federal program requires that coal companies monitor airborne coal dust by catching the dust in filters, which are analyzed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Safety officials at Peabody mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio failed to comply with the program, federal officials said.

The violations included falsifying information on documents, improperly obtaining samples from outside rather than inside a mine and taking dust out of filters, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Peabody Holding Co. and its subsidiaries, the largest of which is Peabody Coal, employ 10,500 people. In fiscal 1990, the international coal operator sold 93 million tons of coal.

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