Settlements, sealing and more citations for Massey

Posted on behalf of The Bell Law Firm, PLLC on May 05, 2011 in Wrongful Death

Massey Energy Co. announced this week that seven families of Upper Big Branch victims have agreed to the company's settlement offer. The $3 million settlements will end those families' actions against the mining company. Five other families have filed wrongful death suit s against Massey.

West Virginia news outlets are also reporting that Massey and the Mine, Safety and Health Administration will be meeting this week to discuss the future of the Upper Big Branch mine. The mine hasn't been open since April 5, 2010, the day of the explosion that killed 29 workers. MSHA and company officials are expected to discuss sealing the mine permanently.

The timing of any action will depend on the completion of several investigations into the accident. If the mine is sealed, Massey would remove all equipment and close off all entry points to the mine. Miners who had worked at UBB have reportedly found jobs at other sites around the state.

Also this week, MSHA came down hard on Massey after inspections of the Randolph Mine in Boone County. One MSHA official said the conditions in the mine were "nothing short of outrageous." The company earned citations for more than two dozen safety violations -- including inadequate ventilation. In 20 orders, the agency mandated that the company remove workers from the mine.

In light of the publicity Massey has generated over the past year, it seemed odd to regulators that workers in the Boone County operation were covered in coal dust and combustible material and ventilation curtains weren't in place. The UBB blast has been linked to coal dust mixing with methane gas.

Congress is once again holding hearings about mine safety. Miners are asking lawmakers outright why they bother writing laws when there's so little enforcement.

In an email to the press, Massey's general counsel said the company was "very disappointed" with the results of the Randolph Mine. The company hasn't turned a profit since the Upper Big Branch disaster.

Sources:

Bloomberg.com, "Massey says seven families agree to $3 million settlements," Mario Parker, 05/blog/11

Bloomberg.com, "Massey Cited by U.S. for 'Outrageous' Mine Safety Violations," Holly Rosenkrantz, 05/blog/11

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