I suspect all of our readers will be shocked to learn that the owners of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men died in an explosion last year kept two sets of safety records, with one set being hidden from federal safety officials. Investigators from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have disclosed that information to families of the victims of the April 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion. A final report on the accident from MSHA is due later this year. This is the sort of conduct by huge corporations that proponents of so-called tort reform want to protect.
Massey Energy, which owned the mine at the time of the accident, was recently acquired by Alpha Natural Resources. The families were told that Massey kept two sets of records on safety problems. One internal set of production reports detailed those problems and how they delayed coal production. But the other records, which are reviewed by MSHA and required by federal law, failed to mention the same safety hazards.
Portions of the Upper Big Branch mine hit by the explosion were not treated for excessive and explosive coal dust because the entryways or tunnels in those areas were too small to accommodate the machine used to spray the material that neutralizes coal dust, according to the report. Gas readings taken shortly after the explosion showed too little methane to support Massey’s claim that a naturally-occurring and unpredictable inundation of gas caused the disaster. The details came from a private briefing in Beckley, W.Va., for the families of the 29 mine workers killed in the disaster. Six participants provided those details to NPR.
Sources: National Public Radio and Reuters
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