Profits trumped all, including the safety and lives of 29 miners. That is the clear conclusion of a yearlong federal investigation into the Upper Big Branch disaster. Industry must finally learn its lesson. Congress and federal regulators must ensure that it does. The investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration faults the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, for deadly mismanagement. “This explosion could and should have been prevented by the mine operator,” it said, rejecting the company’s claim that a sudden infusion of methane gas caused the explosion.
Investigators instead found a chain of safety neglect: a dangerous buildup of coal dust had gone unattended and finally exploded after faulty water sprays failed to douse sparks from a cutting machine.
It also found that mine executives kept two sets of safety books to hide lethal hazards from inspectors, while also intimidating foremen and safety monitors into misrepresenting the true dangers down below.
The findings are being referred to criminal prosecutors. The mine’s security chief has already been indicted, and more than a dozen company officials are under investigation and, thus far, declining to cooperate.
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Source: New York Times Editorial
I have sit down with many current and former Massey miners. They have told me stories of how they were instructed to take down line curtins, to leave coal dust, to do other illegal actiities in order to make money for the company. When I asked them why they would jeopardize their own lives they told me that when they complained, Massey told them to work or “get on down the mountain”. Sadly, 29 miners did not get on down that mountain on April 5
Would you eat in a restaurant with 500 violations? Would you drive a car with 500 violations?
You must be one of the 2% of Appalachians who work for coal. It is heartbreaking that anyone would defend a multinational company, based outside of WV who would have such a safety record. But it is the politics of coal. How else can you convince that slavery to a company is more important that miner’s lives.
Coal miners and the environmentalists both want good, safe jobs. They have everything in common. Neither have anything in common with the goals of a coal company. They make millions, pay the workers a mere fraction of their worth, and then destroy our communities.
Sen Robert C Byrd has said Massey cares more about money than safety. MSHA is conducting an investigation, and the FBI is now investigating criminal activity.
You can put your head in the coal dust, or you can see the facts. I cannot make you do either. The souls of 29 miners killed on April 5 cry for justice. If you don’t want to hear them, know that most people on the face of this earth do hear their cries for justice. We hear them and we are acting.
God bless our miners, God bless WV and God bless you. – Mari-Lynn Evans