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Massey Miner: ‘I Stayed Scared to Death’

Add Randy Dingus to the growing list of Massey miners who have come forward in recent weeks with allegations that the Virginia-based company prioritized coal production above miner safety in Appalachia.

Dingus, a longtime Appalachian coal miner, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that Massey’s safety rhetoric didn’t extend to the company’s practices underground. He cited his experiences at Massey’s Lower Cedar Grove mine in the late 1990s.

“To be honest that was one of the most dangerous mines that I’ve ever been in. The way they run it and the conditions of the mine, it was pretty sad to put people in there. I know they had to make money but…”

“I stayed scared to death. This is the god’s honest truth: I would go to work crying and come home crying because my nerves was so messed up over doing things that was unsafe and the way they treated ya. They treated ya awful, no respect.”

Dingus also noted a common (but rarely mentioned) occurrence in Appalachia: the practice of blasting the coal fields on top of mountains at the same time that miners are tunneling inside the same range.

“We had a strip job at one time was right over top of us or real close to us,” he said. “When they put a shot off you could feel it it would shake the mines inside the ground and stuff and the roof.”

Also noteworthy, Dingus said that Massey supervisors discouraged the miners from hanging ventilation curtains, which channel fresh air underground and prevent methane from accumulating. Those curtains can get in the way of the heavy equipment, slowing production.

“I would try to hang the ventilation the curtain to keep the dust out and away from me and he would jump on me,” he said. “(He would) say ‘no you can’t do that; it will mess the curtain up.’”

Massey has been under a microscope since April 5, when its Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., exploded, killing 29 miners and all but killing a 30th. Behind its bellicose CEO Don Blankenship, the company has defended its safety record since the incident. But its side of the story grows less and less credible each time a new Randy Dingus emerges with horror stories from underground.

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