Last June, Alpha Natural Resources Inc. acquired Massey Energy Co. and liabilities related to the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 men in Montcoal, WV. Recently, Alpha has settled all claims with the families of those killed. Today, another chapter closed in this sad story when mine security chief, Hughie Elbert Stover, was sentenced to 36 months in prison. Stover was found guilty in a short trial in October 2011 and U.S. attorney Booth Goodwin had asked for a 25 year sentence.
Last week, Gary May (43), a superintendent at the mine, was charged with conspiring to obstruct federal regulators before the 2010 explosion. Prosecutors have hinted that May is cooperating and plans to plead guilty. May is the highest ranking person at Massey and it is thought that his testimony could lead to the investigation of other executives. Another employee, Thomas Harrah, a mine foreman, pled guilty and received a 10 month prison sentence last year. Senior executives including, the outspoken former CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, took the fifth and refused to testify in the investigation. No senior executives at Massey were charged criminally.