The owner of a West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men in 2010 will pay nearly $210 million in a historic settlement arising from the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in decades. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced the settlement last month, calling it a “revolutionary resolution.” This is the largest settlement ever resulting from a criminal investigation into a U.S. mine disaster. As part of the agreement, Alpha Natural Resources will not be charged with crimes, but individuals still could face criminal prosecution. Alpha Natural Resources acquired Massey Energy after the explosion at Upper Big Branch.
The agreement includes more than $46 million in criminal restitution to the miners’ families for violations at Upper Big Branch. Another $128 million will fund cutting-edge mine safety upgrades, research and training, and $35 million in penalties for federal mine safety violations was also included.
The settlement does not prevent the future prosecutions of individuals on criminal charges in the April 2010 blast. Alpha Natural Resources assumed the civil and some criminal liability when it bought Massey Energy in June. Although the settlement addresses some potential criminal liability, it does not resolve any potential criminal violations by any company officers or agents. This is in contrast to a previous government deal with Massey that drew widespread objections for including a promise not to prosecute any officers or employees of the company.
Investigators found that the Upper Big Branch explosion was linked to poor safety practices by Massey. Investigators also found evidence of a coverup of safety conditions at the site. Civil lawsuits against Alpha won’t be affected by the settlement with the Justice Department and MSHA. Those lawsuits will continue through the system.
Source: USA Today
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