An explosion ripped through a West Virginia coal mine owned by Massey Energy last month, killing 29 miners in the deadliest U.S. mining disaster since 1984. The explosion occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, about 30 miles south of Charleston. The mine is owned by Massey’s Performance Coal subsidiary. The death toll makes it the deadliest U.S. mining disaster since 1984, when 27 miners died in a fire in Utah, according to the United States Mine Rescue Association. It’s evident that mines can be very dangerous and that’s why safety must be a top priority for both owners and the government.
Massey, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia, with operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. This company has had a very poor safety record. According to federal records, the Upper Big Branch Mine has had three fatalities since 1998 and has a worse-than-average injury rate over the last ten years. Two of the miners died in roof collapses in 1998 and 2001, while a third was electrocuted in 2003 when repairing an underground car.
According to Ellen Smith, the editor of Mine Safety and Health News, the Upper Big Branch mine had been repeatedly cited for safety violations going back years and continuing this year. The mine, which employs just over 200 people, uses the ”longwall mining” method to tear coal from a lengthy face, leading the ground behind it to collapse. Critics say the method can cause surface subsidence and damage to buildings.
Because of the most recent disaster, the extremely poor job done by the federal regulatory agency over the years is being widely discussed in the national media. When you look at the history of Massey, with all of its safety problems, violations and warnings, it’s quite evident that this is a company that has never made safety and the welfare of its employees a real priority.
Source: Insurance Journal
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