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After gas ignites, pair burned at West Virginia coal mine

FELLOWSVILLE, W.Va. — Two coal miners were burned on their face and arms Monday when gas ignited, creating a brief flash of fire at mine in northern West Virginia.

The Whitetail Kittanning Mine was shut down and two investigators were sent to the site in Preston County, said federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere. The names of the injured miners were not immediately released. One was a shuttle car operator, the other a continuous miner operator, Louviere said.

They were taken to a hospital with serious burns, though they were able to walk off a mine elevator.

The mine is owned by Kingwood Mining, a subsidiary of Abingdon, Va.-based Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha spokesman Ted Pile did not immediately comment on the accident.

Two weeks ago, the mine was fined more than $763,000 after being cited 13 times in a year for allowing coal dust to accumulate along conveyer belts. Coal dust can catch fire because of friction from the belts, and it can intensify explosions.

The company said it would contest the fines and noted that MSHA could have evacuated the mine had it considered workers in imminent danger.

Whitetail Kittanning employs about 260 people and produces about 1.4 million tons of coal annually.

Alpha operates 57 mines in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The company also is the target of a $3.3 billion takeover by Cleveland-based iron ore producer Cliffs Natural Resources.

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