A history of violations at Upper Big Branch mine
By Dennis B. Roddy and Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Upper Big Branch coal mine, where an explosion Monday killed 25 miners, has a history of serious violations that at points were five times more extensive than the national average, according to federal records.
The mine in Raleigh County, near Beckley, W.Va., was cited for 458 safety violations last year, with 50 of them listed as unwarrantable failures to comply — citations reserved under federal mining regulations for instances of willful or gross negligence.
Nationwide, an average of 2 percent of safety violations are unwarrantable failures. Slightly more than 10 percent of Upper Big Branch mine’s violations last year were unwarrantable failures.
Cecil-based coal producer Consol Energy Inc. rushed three teams to West Virginia Monday to assist at the mine.
Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship said in a statement at 8:30 p.m. Monday:
“Our prayers go out to the families of the miners. We want to assure the families of all the miners we are taking every action possible to locate and rescue those still missing.”
The Upper Big Branch mine is owned by Massey Energy, a Virginia-based firm that faced a then-record $1.5 million fine after a fire at its Aracoma Coal Mine in Logan County, W.Va., in which two men became lost amid a wash of smoke because of missing safety walls.