BENTON, Ill. (AP) _ Peabody Coal Co., the nation's largest coal company, has pleaded guilty to felony charges of violating federal mine safety regulations stemming from the death of a worker.

Lawyers for the St. Louis-based company entered the plea Monday in federal court at Benton, where Peabody was scheduled to go on trial, U.S. Attorney Frederick Hess said.

In entering the plea, Peabody acknowledged it allowed miners to work under an unsupported roof at its Eagle Mine No. 2 near Shawneetown in violation of the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977, the prosecutor said.

Mine foreman Darrell Dunn, 48, of Harrisburg, was killed when the roof fell at the mine in December 1982, and Hess said six of the charges in the original 12-count indictment returned against Peabody last year stem from that accident.

Peabody entered the negotiated plea before Judge James Foreman. Lawyers for Peabody and the government have until June 13 to submit written briefs to Foreman, who is expected to assess a penalty by the end of the month.

Hess said Peabody could be fined as much as $25,000 on each of the six felony counts, and the penalty could be doubled if prior convictions are uncovered.

Peabody lawyers said that by entering the plea, the company was not acknowledging liabiltity for Dunn's death. Both the lawyers and company officials in St. Louis declined futher comment.