Dec 12, 2011
Alpha Natural Resources has cut a deal to avoid prosecution with the U.S. Attorney’s office by paying a 209-million-dollar fine. Alpha is the name of the company Massey Coal transformed itself into after its dangerous Big Branch coal mine killed 29 miners.
After the underground explosion, investigations cited flagrant ongoing safety violations, including deliberate interference with methane ventilation and with coal-dust control. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), too little and too late, issued 369 violations – after the fact.
The violations were clearly so deliberate as to be criminal conduct. Yet only one low-level supervisor has been indicted. Eighteen Massey executives cited their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to be interviewed by federal investigators.
The deal means that no one high up at Massey is going to face hard time for the miners’ deaths. Every mine operator understands the meaning of this deal: they can go on like before.
The next Big Branch disaster is inevitable.