Report on West Virginia Deadly Coal Mine Explosion: Massey Energy, Don Blankenship ‘Profoundly Reckless’ [New]
The first major investigative report (PDF) on the coal mine disaster in West Virginia last year that killed 29 miners was released today. The 122-page report, a year in the making and authored by a team of independent experts appointed by former West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, drops the hammer on Massey Energy, which operated the Upper Big Branch mine and was headed by notoriously thuggish coal baron Don Blankenship. “Massey exhibited a corporate mentality that placed the drive to produce coal above worker safety” at the mine, the report concludes.
The report charges Massey with a long list of failures, including having a faulty ventilation plan, which allowed explosive gases to build up in the mine, and – incredibly – faking safety examinations and disabling instruments to monitor methane gas in the mine. The report slams Massey for encouraging a “culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm.” According to Ken Ward Jr., the Charleston Gazette’s ace coal industry reporter, when Davitt McAteer, the former mine safety official who headed up the investigation, met with the Upper Big Branch families to explain the conclusions of his report, he told them, point-blank, that Massey “ran this mine in a profoundly reckless manner.”
The report also is critical of federal regulators who oversaw the mine. “The disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine is proof positive that the [federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA] failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners,” the panel’s report says.
Once again we see the consequences of allowing capitalism to run unrestrained are lethal.