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In March of last year, Massey Energy Corporation’s official record book for reporting unsafe conditions in its Upper Big Branch coal mine said flatly: “none observed.” It turns out that this was a flat-out lie, and a few days later Upper Big Branch exploded, killing 29 miners.
Indeed, Massey’s in-house “observers” had found safety problems – as they often did in this shoddily-run, notoriously dangerous mine – but the corporation kept a dual set of books in order to mislead state and federal safety regulators. Massey’s official record book, which coal giants must show to government inspectors, is filled with such rosy reports as “none observed,” while the true dangers are recorded in a set of internal books that are sealed in the corporate closet.
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However, thanks to a comprehensive year-long probe by a hundred-member team of federal mine safety investigators, Massey’s internal reports are now out of the closet. The team’s findings reveal not only an ugly safety record, but also a truly ugly corporate culture. The investigators concluded that Massey executives took premeditated, systematic steps to circumvent safety rules, including falsifying records and intimidating workers who tried to report hazards. The probe included interviews with 266 people – but, interestingly, 18 Massey honchos (including longtime CEO Don Blankenship) refused to be interviewed, invoking their right against self-incrimination.
This goes to the top, all the way to Massey’s executive suite elites and board of directors who profited from the deliberate safety shortcuts that killed those 29 men. It also goes to Congress, where corporate-protecting Republicans continue to block regulatory reforms that would stop the needless killing of miners. For information, contact West Virginia Watchdog at: www.westvirginia.watchdog.org.
Mine Owners Misled Inspectors Before Blast, Investigators Say,” June 30, 2011.