Massey Energy Hasn’t Learned Lesson A Year After Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

Preceding the internationally covered Chilean mine collapse and rescue, there was mine explosion here in the United States known as the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. Charleston workers’ compensation attorneys remember that in April of 2010, an explosion killed 29 of the 31 miners at the Upper Big Branch site near the community of Montcoal, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. While investigation into the incident is ongoing, officials have speculated that the explosion may have been initiated by a spark from a mantrip, a shuttle that transports miners into and out of the mine, and fueled by extremely high methane levels within the mine. The Disaster marks the worst mining accident in the U.S. since 1970.

While browsing the internet this morning, the on the job injury lawyers at Howell and Christmas found interesting Wall Street Journal article that reports the Massey Energy Co., owners of the Upper Bring Branch mine, have been accused of failing to clean up its act since the 2010 explosion.

Officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted a surprise inspection at Massey’s Randolph Mine last Friday, finding conditions that were “nothing short of outrageous.” During the inspection they found miners engulfed in coal dust and combustible loose coal accumulated in working, posing a “serious risk” of fire, explosion, and severe burn injuries.

One would think that after the Disaster at Upper Big Branch those at Massey would have taken steps to prevent another tragic incident that not only took the lives of miners, but also husbands, fathers, and sons of the Montcoal community. But, apparently the sixth largest coal company in the nation is just not getting it.

Apart from the conditions that posed the threat of another mine explosion, serious injuries, and wrongful deaths, officials found that the ventilation curtains were not being used in some areas of the mine. These curtains are used to protect workers from against coal worker’s pneumoconiosis, most commonly known as Black Lung, which is a lung disease that results from breathing in dust from coal, graphite, or man-made carbon over a long period of time.

General counsel for Massey Energy Co. commented on the inspection saying, “We are very disappointed by [its] results,” and “we will take all actions necessary to ensure that our operations comply with the letter of the law.” In total, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued 20 withdrawal orders and five citations to the Randolph Mine in Boone County.

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