West Virginia coal mines failed to disclose accidents and injuries

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Sep 02, 2011 in Coal Mining Accidents

Two coal mines in West Virginia have been the subject of an investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). These mines are the Randolph mine and the Justice No. 1 mine, both of which were owned by Massey Energy. Massey Energy was also the owner of the mine where the deadly explosion took place last year, killing 29 mine workers.

The two mines currently under investigation have apparently given false reports regarding  coal mine accident s and injuries. In fact, according to federal mine safety regulators, 24 injuries went unreported last year. At the Randolph mine, 25 serious safety issues resulted in the mine being evacuated, and which placed miners at serious risk of being the victims of fire, explosion and black lung.

If the mines had reported accidents and injuries, they would have been part of a watch list, and there would have been greater scrutiny into the mines' operations. Being on the watch list also means that the mines would be required to address any serious safety violations. This type of enforcement by mine regulators is necessary in order to prevent injuries and death to mine workers, and the possible need of a mine shutdown if the situation becomes dire.

Unfortunately, because these mines did not report the injuries and accidents, they were not part of the watch list. Based on suspicions that Massey was not being upfront about the number of accidents and injuries at its mines, MSHA filed a lawsuit to access any such reports.

Alpha Natural Resources has since taken over the ownership and operation of these two mines that were owned by Massey Energy. Apparently, the ownership change took place after the deception occurred. Alpha Natural Resources is complying with the MSHA in their ongoing investigation.

Source: NPR, "Feds Still Finding Problems At Old Massey Mines," Howard Berkes, Aug. 31, 2011

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