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Finally, perhaps some justice for victims of the Massey mine disaster

On April 29, 2010, a massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia killed 29 men. It was the largest mine disaster this country has seen since 1970. The tragedy has been under investigation for nearly two years now, but today it seems that, finally, there may be some justice for the families of the victims who were killed in the blast.

Media accounts are reporting that the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will issue a finding on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, containing 253 violations mining safety regulations committed by the mine’s management.

The WVMHST document reportedly targets two foreman for most of the violations, but the fact is, this explosion and the deaths that resulted cannot be hung on the shortcomings of two foreman alone. These deaths are the direct result of a culture of mismanagement that goes straight up the Massey foodchain and ends in the office of Massey mine owner Don Blankenship.

Thankfully, there are indications that the justice system intends to pursue the case further.

On Feb. 22, the U.S. Attorney in West Virginia charged Massey mine superintendent Gary May with conspiracy to obstruct federal regulators investigating the cause of the disaster. The indictment from the West Virginia U.S. Attorney’s office is attached below, and if you’ve got a couple of minutes, give it a read. This document makes it abundantly clear that Mr. May was not the only Massy official involved in the ongoing effort to avoid and obstruct regulatory investigators.

After all, it takes two to conspire.

So this indictment, at best, represents a good first step. Each and every one of the Massey executives, including Don Blankenship, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for what happend in their mine on that tragic day in April 2010.

And then, in the words of Jim Schultz, the executive director at the Wisconsin Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (WisCOSH), they should all be sentenced to life at hard labor, in their own mines, without the possibility of parole.

It won’t bring back those 29 mine whose blood is on their hand, but it’d be a good start.

WV US Attorney May indictment.pdf1022.94 KB