Massey Energy Saftey Record: Company, Coal Mine Accident History
Massey Energy Company: West Virgina Coal Mines and Upper Big Branch Accident History
As the race is underway to rescue the 21 miners trapped in the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Monticoal, Raleigh County, West Virginia questions are being asked about the safety record of the mine and other West Virgina mines operated by Performance Coal, a subsidiary of the Massey Energy Company.
Records from the Mine Safety and Health Administration show the Upper Big Branch mine had 3 fatalities in last 12 years.
In 1998, a worker was killed when a support beam collapsed, dumping bags of cement mix and other materials onto the man, according to a report from the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration. Federal investigators blamed poor welding and construction
In 2001, another worker at the mine died after a portion of roof fell in on him, and an electrician died after being electrocuted while repairing a shuttle car there in 2003.
The injury record for the Massey Energy Company is a mixed bag, The New York Times says the injury rate for the company is worse than the national average.
Federal records indicate that the Upper Big Branch mine has recorded an injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations for at least six of the past 10 years. The records also show hat the mine had 458 violations in 2009, with a total of $897,325 in safety fines penalties assessed against it last year. It has paid $168,393 in safety penalties.
In 2006, at another West Virgina mine, owned by the Massey Energy Company, a fire killed two workers at the Aracoma Alma No 1 Mine in Logan County.
That incident prompted the the Mine Saftey Health Administration (MSHA) to issue the largest ever fine (at the time) to the Massey Energy Company.
In fact Massey Energy, received the largest U.S. fine ever for mine safety violations after two coal miners died in a January 19, 2006 fire at the Aracoma Alma No.1 Mine in Logan County West Virginia.
In total 25 violation health and safety violations were found and the case was also referred to the Attorney General's office for possible criminal charges.
In a news release Thursday, Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, declared, "The number and severity of safety violations at the mine at the time of the fire demonstrated reckless disregard for safety, warranting the highest fine MSHA has levied for a fatal coal mining accident, " totaling $1.5 million.
In 2009, a federal judge increased that number to $2.5 million after executives plead guilty to 10 criminal charges.
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver approved Aracoma Coal Co.'s plea deal despite a provision sparing Massey officials and the Richmond, Va., coal company from prosecution. The agreement also required Aracoma to pay a $1.7 million fine for civil violations found by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The Massey Energy Company on its website discusses its various safety initiatives, outlining how it handles tragic accidents
...when accidents do occur, Massey teams and mines conduct extensive internal reviews to ensure they don't happen again. Following incidents, Massey reviews its rules and policies and then takes steps and makes necessary changes to protect members and prevent future incidents.
According to Source Watch, The Upper Big Branch mine where the explosion occurred has about 160 employees and produces roughly 576,672 short tons of coal per year in 2007.