You are hereMSNBC: W. Va. mine blast: Coal firm had worst safety record

MSNBC: W. Va. mine blast: Coal firm had worst safety record

Far from ‘average’: No company had more miner deaths from 2000 to 2009 than Massey Energy, investigation shows

November 23, 2010- Despite its claims that its safety record was “average,” no U.S. coal company had a worse fatality record than Massey Energy Co., even before an explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 29 on April 5, according to an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.

Massey, the largest coal company in central Appalachia, has come under heightened scrutiny in the six months since the disaster, the deadliest mining accident in nearly 40 years. But the company’s claims that it had a typical fatality rate before the accident had not been fully examined prior to the investigation, in part because the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration does not regularly list in fatality reports the companies that control the mines.

The government has a policy for listing smaller companies that oversee everyday operations at mines, so-called “operators.” But controlling companies such as Massey — defined by the government as companies “controlling the coal, particularly the sale of the coal” — are not typically named, although controllers often set safety standards and claim credit when awards are given for good safety histories.

The Workshop analyzed government data that it requested from the mine safety agency, and found that no company other than Massey was responsible for more miner deaths from 2000 to 2009, even though Massey was only the sixth-largest coal producer in the United States last year, according to government statistics. Both Massey and CONSOL Energy Inc. had 23 fatalities during those 10 years. But CONSOL produced more coal, giving Massey a much poorer ratio of deaths-to-production.

Including this year’s fatalities, 54 workers have been killed at Massey mines since 2000, dozens more than those of any other company. The total includes the 23 before the accident, 29 from the explosion and two since.



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