Study Blames W.Va. Mine Owner for Deadly Explosion

It faults Massey Energy as reckless with safety precautions

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 19, 2011 11:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – Massey Energy recklessly ignored safety and allowed dangerous conditions to build inside a West Virginia mine until a blast last year killed 29 men in the deadliest US coal accident since 1970, according to an independent report released today. The report by a former top federal mine regulator said Massey could have prevented the April 2010 disaster with standard safety practices, including better ventilation to reduce potentially explosive levels of gas and dust in the tunnels.

"A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk-taking," the study concluded. It supported the federal government's theory that methane gas mixed with huge volumes of explosive coal dust turned a small fireball into a preventable earth-shattering explosion. The report, commissioned by the state's then-governor, is the first of several. State and federal investigators are pursuing their own inquiries, while federal prosecutors conduct a criminal investigation.

In an April 5, 2010 file photo, West Virginia State Police direct traffic at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in Montcoal, W.Va.
In an April 5, 2010 file photo, West Virginia State Police direct traffic at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in Montcoal, W.Va.   (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner, File)
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