Were it not for the deliberate actions of Don Blankenship and Massey Energy the deaths of 29 miners in West Virginia would not have occurred. These deaths were foreseeable, even predicted, and this is not the first time Massey has caused the deaths of miners.
Massey Energy has been fined millions of dollars for its violations of mine safety and has already settled one case where miners were killed with criminal and civil fines totaling more than $4 million. It is time to stop coddling corporate criminals like Blankenship and hold them accountable for their actions.
Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine, the site of the deaths, has been cited 1,342 times for safety violations since 2005. And, 86 of those violations were for an inadequate ventilation plan that prevents the very type of explosions that caused these deaths. Last year alone, Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine was cited for 495 violations and $911,802 in fines. So far this year, regulators have found 105 violations at the mine. Twelve of those citations were issued in the last month. The same day of the explosion, the Upper Big Branch mine was hit with two additional safety violations.
According to The New York Times: "In the past two months, miners had been evacuated three times from the Upper Big Branch because of dangerously high methane levels, according to two miners who asked for anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat whose district includes the mine, said he had received similar reports from miners about recent evacuations at the mine, which as recently as last month was fined at least three times for ventilation problems, according to federal records."
So, Massey was well aware of the inadequate ventilation that led to the explosion that killed the miners. It will not be the first time that Massey was guilty of actions that led to death.
In fact in 2008, Massey's subsidiary Aracoma Coal was charged by the Department of Justice with willful violation of mandatory safety standards, one count resulting in the death of two miners, and with making a false statement. Massey settled these criminal charges along with civil violations for $4.2 million in criminal and civil penalties -- the largest financial settlement in the coal industry's history. The corporation pled guilty to criminal mine safety violations that led to the deaths. Testimony showed Blankenship suggested firing two supervisors for raising concerns about safety problems with the conveyer belt just before the belt caught fire, causing the deaths.
And, this was not the first time miners have died at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Since 1998, three other miners have died at the Upper Big Branch mine. All of confirms the conclusion of Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and former head of the United Mine Workers of America, put forward: "This incident isn't just a matter of happenstance, but rather the inevitable result of a profit-driven system and reckless corporate conduct."
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