Just three months after five miners lost their lives in an explosion at the Kentucky Darby Mine Number One in Holmes Mill, a coal mine, less than ten miles away, is now celebrating some national recognition for safety.
Not only one, but three Harlan County mines take the top four spots for small underground mines, awarded by the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Mining Association.
In the midst of tears poured out by family members who lost nine men in Harlan County Coal Mines in the last two years, this county now has a physical symbol that there are safe mines in Harlan County.
An award recognized across the nation, calling 17 Harlan County Coal Miners and their company leaders, Sentinels of Safety.
Even more impressive, they worked that safe, doing what many miners consider to be the most dangerous type of mining, they are retreat mining, basically, collapsing the roof as they exit the mine.
"Everybody looks out for each other and looks out for their self. We know the right way of doing things and that's the way we do it. There's no short cuts or anything like that. I've worked at mines where it wasn't like that," Chad Miles said.
Miles says it's finally good to hear something positive about coal mining and miners here get an extra incentive for being safe.
The same operators also have two mines that placed in the top four safest small underground mines, the K-3 Mine in Louellen was fourth place, while the Number 18 mine in Evarts, not only placed second in the nation but also first in the state.
There were also two small surface coal group companies in the region that placed.
Sugarloaf Mine Number One, operated by Locust Grove Incorporated in Prestonsburg was fourth place and Island Creek Mine, operated by Wolf Pen Coal Corporation in Phyllis was the fifth small safest surface mine nation.
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