Massey Energy is actively contesting millions of dollars of fines for safety violations at its West Virginia coal mine where disaster struck yesterday afternoon. Twenty-five miners were killed and another four are missing after a explosion took place at 3 pm Monday at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South between the towns of Montcoal and Naoma. It is “the most people killed in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah.” This deadly mine has been cited for over 3,000 violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 638 since 2009:
Since 1995, Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine has been cited for 3,007 safety violations. Massey is contesting 353 violations, and 127 are delinquent. [MSHA]
Massey is contesting over a third (34.7%) of the 516 safety citations the Upper Big Branch-South Mine received in 2009, its greatest count in the last 15 years. [MSHA]
In March 2010, 53 new safety citations were issued for Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine, including violations of its mine ventilation plan. [MSHA]
Massey is now contesting $1,128,833 in fines for safety violations at the deadly Upper Big Branch-South Mine, with a further $246,320 in delinquent fines:
Over $2.2 million in fines have been assessed against Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine since 1995, with $791,327 paid. Massey is contesting $1,128,833 in fines. Massey’s delinquent fines total $246,320. [MSHA]
Massey is contesting $251,613 in fines for citations for Upper Big Branch-South Mine’s ventilation plan. [MSHA]
Before yesterday’s tragic explosion, there have been three fatalities at Massey’s Upper Big Branch-South Mine in the last twelve years — one each in 1998, 2001, and 2003. Massey’s corrupt CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce board member Don Blankenship, has previously told employees that it was more important to “run coal” than follow safety regulations.
In 2002, President George W. Bush “named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act,” and cut 170 positions from MSHA. Bush’s MSHA chief, Dick Stickler, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average.” On October 21, 2009, the Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Stickler, Joe Main, a “career union official and mine safety expert.” Massey’s Suboleski is still an active review commissioner.
Although Upper Big Branch-South is a non-union mine, the United Mine Workers of America has sent expert personnel to the site of the accident, said United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts:
We are all brothers and sisters in the coalfields at times like this.