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Fire Damages West Virginia Coal Mine

Associated Press

July 02, 2010

STOLLINGS, W.Va. — The second fire in a year will delay the reopening of a southern West Virginia coal processing plant, owner Massey Energy Co. said Wednesday.

The fire that damaged the new Zigmond Processing plant Tuesday and one that destroyed its predecessor Aug. 27 started with cutting and welding on steel pipe, Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere said.

No one was working at the plant and no injuries were reported, Massey said.

A federal mine inspector discovered the latest blaze, Louviere said. The inspector was traveling to another mine in the area, noticed the plant was engulfed in flames and notified the agency’s regional office, she said.

Work on the processing plant was nearly complete. Six weeks ago, Massey told investors the new plant would be ready to ship raw coal by August and start processing coal by mid-September. Raw coal shipping is expected to start on schedule, but Massey now expects to start processing coal by December.

The delay is not expected to affect shipments overall, Massey said.

The fire is the latest setback for Richmond, Va.-based Massey. An explosion killed 29 men at its Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia on April 5, the nation’s worst coal mining disaster in 40 years. The explosion is the subject of ongoing criminal and civil investigations.

The explosion also has spawned several lawsuits and Massey has warned investors that it expects second-quarter losses could range from $80 million to $150 million.