Upper Big Branch Mine Tragedy was One Year Ago Today…

Here in West Virginia we are seriously interested in reforming the coal mining industry – whether easing it out entirely or at least improving the pollution of the air and water due to mining practices – but the most important reform necessary is mine safety.

There have been many regulations passed over the years to improve mine safety including inspections, improved methods and both labor and management responsibilites. One year ago today, however, a company called Massey Energy and an inspection system that was basically ignored, was responsible for an explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine, Montcoal, WV (about 30 miles south of Charleston.)

29 miners died.

There's more...

Federal Criminal Probe of WV Mine Disaster, in Wake of Another Mine Tragedy in KY

Earlier this week, it was saddening and unfortunate to hear of two deaths in a Kentucky coal mine operation.  Two men were found dead in the Dotki Mine, in Hopkins Co, Kentucky. The mine is associated with Alliance Resources and is, yet again, a non-union operating mine.  Tragedy struck when the roof of a portion of the mine collapsed. 

The mine was reported to have had a large fire that caused a lot of damage back in 2004.  

Some may not recall that the Dotiki Mine was the scene of a major fire on Feb. 11, 2004. The blaze caused no injuries, but it took several days to extinguish the fire and several weeks to restore the mine. The effort also demanded considerable resources from MSHA.

source:  MSHA Staffer Kathy Snyder

The rise in mining related deaths in the recent month has prompted President Obama and his administration to take a deeper look at the MSHA organization and increasing mine safety in the U.S.

The Bush Administration did a poor job in improving MSHA and mine safety throughout the country.  Elain Chao, coincidentally Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife, was Secretary of Labor under Bush.

Once Elaine Chao, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's wife, became Secretary of Labor, which oversees the MSHA, she, according to Jack Spadaro, an MSHA engineer investigating the spill, put on the brakes. Two years later, Massey was assessed a slap-on-the-wrist $5,600 fine. The same year, Massey's PAC donated $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was chaired by McConnell. And Massey's CEO Don Blankenship has personally donated millions to the campaigns of judges and politicians.

Courtesy of Arianna Huffington

Conflict of interest much?  I Shall let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is President Obama's statement after the Kentucky mine tragedy

I am deeply saddened by the loss of two miners in Kentucky, and my thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones they left behind. As I said after the tragedy in West Virginia, I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply the cost of mining. It is the responsibility of all of us, from mine operators to the federal government, to prevent such tragedies from happening again. That is why my administration is taking steps to demand accountability for safety violations and strengthen mine safety so that all of our miners are protected.

Thanks to the Charleston Gazette, and everyone at Coal Tattoo, for the ongoing news and coverage of anything mine related in Appalachia.

Another source of information from Coal Tattoo is in regard to Massey Energy.  A federal criminal probe is currently underway after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier in April that killed 29 miners in Raleigh County West Virginia.  

A federal law enforcement official says the FBI has interviewed nearly two dozen current and former employees of Massey Energy in a criminal probe of the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men.The official says in the interviews over recent days the FBI has been looking for any evidence that the company engaged in criminal negligence.

Several other sources, besides this report from AP, are also commenting on the investigation including Reuters and NPR.  NPR aired news that there is an investigation going on involving bribery of federal MSHA officials, but according to sources at Coal Tattoo this is wrong/has not been confirmed. 

More updates to come I'm sure.

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