Massey Hid Factors Behind W.Va. Mine Blast

Federal report concludes that Upper Big Branch disaster was preventable
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2011 12:13 PM CDT
Mine helmets and painted crosses sit at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, W.Va., as a memorial to the miners who died there, in this April 5 file photo.   (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner, File)
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(Newser) – The explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 people was caused by safety concerns that owner Massey Energy was well aware of, but hid from federal regulators, according to a new report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. “This much we already know. The tragedy at the Upper Big Branch mine was preventable,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a video this morning at a briefing on the findings in West Virginia, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Massey actually kept two sets of safety records, the report found—one for federal regulators, and another internal one that detailed all sorts of other problems, some of which are believed to have caused the Upper Big Branch explosion, NPR reports. Other findings include:

  • Massey failed to control the build-up of explosive coal dust, regulators said, and in some places tunnels weren’t even big enough to accommodate the machine that neutralizes such dust
  • There wasn’t enough methane in the mine to support Massey’s claim that an unpredictable, natural surge of gas caused the blast.
  • Faulty water spouts failed to douse the initial spark that started the blast.

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