UK Coal to escape ‘crippling’ fine

A JUDGE said he will not be imposing crippling fines on UK Coal despite the safety breach which led to the death of a Church Warsop miner.

Paul Milner (44) was crushed under around 90 tonnes of rock when a roof fell in as he tried to install additional supports at Welbeck Colliery in November 2007.

UK Coal, based at Harworth, Nottinghamshire, has already admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to Mr Milner’s case and those of three other miners, who all died at Daw Mill Colliery in Warwickshire.

The company was due to be sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court on Thursday, but Mr Justice MacDuff adjourned sentencing.

The judge said it was in nobody’s interests to impose massive financial penalties on a firm already suffering from the recession and which provided energy and jobs for people across the country.

Mr Milner was working on the roof supports at Welbeck so equipment could be salvaged from a coal face that had ceased production.

The three miners to die at Daw Mill were supervisor Trevor Steeples and mineworkers Paul Hunt and Anthony Garrigan.

Mr Steeples (46), from Nottingham, was asphyxiated due to oxygen deprivation when he was exposed to high levels of methane in part of the mine.

Mr Hunt (45), from Swadlincote, Derbyshire, fell from a poorly maintained underground transporter into the path of a moving ‘train’ and died from his injuries.

While Mr Garrigan (42), of Thorne, South Yorkshire, was helping to install rockbolts to keep a tunnel wall in place when he was crushed by more than 100 tonnes of inadequately supported coal and stone. The section of tunnel had a history of collapses and the dangers were well known.

The judge said he had a very difficult job balancing the need for justice for the men’s families and the threat to the company’s future.

UK Coal already faces huge court costs resulting from the case. The judge adjourned sentencing to a date yet to be fixed.