Gov’t Investigation: Massey Mine Explosion Was Preventable
Last year’s explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the deadliest coal mining accident in the US in 40 years, was a preventable accident caused by a methane gas ignition that set off a massive coal dust explosion, according to federal mine safety officials. The New York Times says a preliminary investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) concluded that Massey Energy, the corporation that operates the mine, had “repeatedly violated federal rules governing ventilation and control of coal dust to reduce the risk of explosion.”
Massey miners had complained about large buildups of coal dust on their equipment before the blast. The company had been cited literally hundreds of times for noncompliance with coal dust control rules as well as other health and safety regulations. Mining tools were also found to be poorly maintained and in some cases, such as with water sprayers meant to prevent explosions and control coal dust, they were not properly functioning.
Massey Energy vice president Shane Harvey took exception with the findings of the MSHA’s investigation. “We do not currently believe that there were issues with the bits or the sprays on the shearer that contributed to the explosion,” he said in an e-mail statement. “We likewise do not believe that coal dust played a meaningful role in the explosion. We currently believe the mine was well rock dusted and that the mine exploded due to an infusion of high levels of natural gas.”
Federal investigators found no evidence of natural gas seepage into the Upper Big Branch mine.
Twenty-nine miners were killed in the April 5, 2010 blast.
Tagged coal dust buildup, coal mining accidents, Massey Energy, Massey mine blast, Massey mine explosion, Massey mine explosion preventable, Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, MSHA investigation Massey mine explosion, Shane Harvey, Upper Big Branch mine explosion, West Virginia mine explosion