Upper Big Branch Mine

Now it comes out that the owner of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men were killed in an explosion last year kept two sets of book on safety conditions. One was for the company and one was for the government safety inspectors. It turns out the one for the safety inspectors was both light on information and contained lies. Massey Energy managers just did not want to interrupt coal production for any bothersome safety issues.

Even before this tragic “accident”, Massey had the reputation of profits before safety. This Upper Big Branch mine was cited for 600 violations in less than a year and a half before the fatal explosion. And that was even after many safety issues were hidden from inspectors. One must wonder though, just how many violation citations does it take for a mine to be shut down by the government until it is safe to work.

Given what has been uncovered, the United States Justice Department should devote whatever resources it needs to uncover all of the facts. If it turns out they are as now it appears, charges of murder in the first degree should be considered. The conditions that resulted in the death of 29 men were premeditated. Accountability needs to go all the way to the top of this company. This includes prosecution of Don Blankenship, the CEO at the time of the Massey accident on April 5, 2010.

Massey currently operates 35 underground mines and 12 surface mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. They have an unprecedented record of safety and environmental violations. It is time for it to stop. It is time for the piper to be paid.


About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As one of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest for 85 years, I have a deep belief in a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent, truthful, and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I also hold three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science, the environment, government, and politics. I have very little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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