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Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, who was cited as having the worst fatality rate in the mining industry prior to the 29 deaths at the Upper Big Branch explosion in April 2010, has filed paperwork to open new mines. Blankenship lost his job as CEO but faced no other penalties and paid no real price for the lives that were lost under his watch. He filed the paperwork on behalf of McCoy Coal Group Inc. of Belfry, Ky., in January, although the company has not sought a new mining permit.
Massey under Blankenship had a legacy that should prohibit him from ever working in the field of mining again:
Following the April 2010 the explosian at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch (W.Va.) mine, a Mine Workers (UMWA) report on the disaster summed up the tragedy in its title: Industrial Homicide. An independent report on the disaster commissioned by former Gov. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) concluded the responsibility for the explosion “lies with the management of Massey Energy…[B]y frequently and knowingly violating the law and blatantly disregarding known safety practices….Massey exhibited a corporate mentality that placed the drive to produce coal above worker safety.” And an investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) found the company kept two sets of books to hide safety problems.
Prior to the disaster, MSHA had filed more than 450 safety citations at Upper Big Branch, which wasn’t the only Massey mine with safety problems. MSHA records show that in at least six of the 10 years prior to the explosion, Massey mine’s injury rate has been worse than the national average for similar operations. In 2009, Massey and subsidiary Aracoma Coal Co. agreed to pay $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties related to a January 2006 fire that killed two miners at the Alma No. 1 mine.
But far from taking responsibility, Blankenship has implied the deadly blast was God’s fault and told the government to keep its hands off patriotic business like Massey. A business so patriotic that the Mine Workers’ report described it as:
"A rogue corporation, acting without real regard for mine safety and health law and regulations, that established a physical working environment that can only be described as a bomb waiting to go off."
Blankenship has made a career of busting unions, violating mine safety laws, attacking environmentalists and shilling for the far right and corporate America. The workers at Upper Big Branch were not in a union. A report following the tragedy found that unionized coal mines are far safer.
Alpha Natural Resources, the company that recently purchased Massey reached an agreement with the federal government to pay $210 million for the disaster.