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First WV coal death believed due to equipment explosion

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An explosion of a piece of equipment at the preparation plant of a West Virginia surface mine marks the first coal mine death of 2013.

In an e-mail Wednesday afternoon, Amy Louviere of the Mine Safety and Health Administration confirmed the death of the worker following explosion of a hydraulic jack on the belt press. Midland Trail Energy LLC's Blue Creek Prep Plant, identified by online MSHA records as Five Mile Prep Plant, is in Kanawha County and according to materials from parent company Patriot Coal, is a complex of two underground mines.

According to MSHA, Brandon E. Townsend, 34, of Delbarton, in Mingo County, W. Va. was the man killed at the Blue Creek Prep Plant.

The injured worker has yet to be identified.

A second miner nearby the incident was also injured, but the extent of those injuries has not been released.

According to financial records from Patriot, it bought the plant in 2011 for $28 million. There had not been a recorded fatality at the plant, according to MSHA records.

Leslie Fitzwater with the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training in West Virginia, also confirmed the incident and said state investigators were also on scene Tuesday.  

The mine is not union represented and the coal produced from the complex is primarily thermal coal. MSHA issued an order to close the plant pending its arrival on scene Wednesday.