Massey Miners Tell of Neglect at Doomed Upper Big Branch Mine
NPR’s Howard Berkes and Frank Langfitt have spent weeks on the ground in southern West Virginia, the site of last month’s deadly blast at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine. And today they’re reporting that “most” of the 10 UBB miners they’ve interviewed over that span noted “continuing problems” with the ventilation system inside the mine — problems that Massey higher-ups allegedly knew about, but didn’t fix.
“They wouldn’t fix the ventilation problems,” a former supervisor and a member of mine management said. “I told them I needed more air. They threatened to fire me if I didn’t run enough coal.”
Another miner said “there was constant confusion” in the management of the air flow system.
A third miner described mine managers this way: “They don’t have a clue how to ventilate this place.”
This isn’t exactly news. The inspector notes, released last month by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, told a similar tale. And a number of former Massey miners have also come forward — even appearing on Capitol Hill — to testify about similar experiences in other Massey mines.
Still, to hear those comments from guys who were working at the UBB mine when the disaster occurred provides another layer altogether — one that both federal investigators and Massey shareholders will surely want to learn more about.