Massey Claims No Problems With Explosive Gases Before Mining Blast
Investigators haven’t yet stepped into the Upper Big Branch Mine in Southern West Virginia — the site of this month’s explosion that killed 29 miners — but experts suspect that a blast that severe could only be caused by a large accumulation of methane gas, likely exacerbated by the presence of coal dust.
Today, however, Massey Energy claimed that wasn’t the case, citing air samples taken in the hour prior to the explosion. The Washington Post reports:
Air samples did not show high levels of explosive gases just before an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine that killed 29 workers, and what caused the disaster remains unknown, the mine’s owner said Monday.
Massey Energy Co. board director Stanley Suboleski said the samples were taken by a foreman as part of a shift change exam of the mine, just “tens of minutes” before the blast. The examination also showed that air flow in the Upper Big Branch mine was fine.
Massey has been on the hot seat since the April 5 blast — not only for the sheer number of safety violations the coal giant has racked up in recent years (including citations at the Upper Big Branch related to ventilation and the accumulation of combustibles) — but for allegedly fostering a company culture where safety played second fiddle to production. Indeed, former Massey workers have charged that a disregard for safety precautions has been Massey’s M.O. for years.
Stay tuned. This story is sure to have legs.