For the second year in a row, Lehigh Anthracite Coal (L.A.C.) LLC, received the top safety award for surface coal mines from the Pennsylvania State Council.

The award, called the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association Safety Award, was presented by Joseph Sbaffoni, director, Bureau of Mine Safety, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Education, during a business and safety awards presentation held this month in Somerset.

Awards were presented for various categories, such as underground coal mines, surface coal mines, preparation plants and shops, independent contractor and surface metal and non-metal mines. The latest award was given to L.A.C. for working 70,269 hours with zero lost time accidents, as well as an incident rate of zero.

"Where coal is king, but safety is number one."

Those words are prominently shown on a billboard displayed at the entrance to the company's 8,000-acre mine.

"We always use the terms 'production' and 'safety' in the same sentence when discussing all operations at the mine," said John Hadesty, mine safety director.

Since coming under new ownership in 2010, L.A.C. has steadily increased its productivity and equipment inventory.

The mine, which operates 20 hours a day, currently has a new arsenal of mine equipment to include eight haul trucks, two shovels, three dozers, two excavator, two loaders and numerous support vehicles.

Hadesty, who has worked at the mine site for over 23 years, added, "Bruce Toll and Doug Topkis (new owners of the mine) are great to work for. In addition to revitalizing the mine, they have provided everything we need to make the mine an even safer place to work."

"In this line of work, any mistake can be fatal," said Hadesty. "There are thousands of things to consider regarding safe operations at a mine. All employees are required to go through training and safety exercises.

"Even though MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) spends about two months out of the year at the mine, we operate as if they are on site at all times," he added.

Hadesty credited Richard "Rusty" Taylor, president/CEO of Lehigh Anthracite Coal LLC, and all the employees of the company for achieving this state award.

"This is a sure testimony to what Bruce Toll and Doug Topkis have brought here."