Massey’s Parent Company Accepts Financial Responsibility For Upper Big Branch Disaster

A wreath and a list of the 29 miners who died at the Upper Big Branch disaster at the state coal miners' memorial on the first anniversary of the explosion. Photo: AP/Jeff Gentner

No amount of money will bring back the 29 men who died because of Massey Energy’s gross disregard for safety, but hopefully this will help their families start to feel a sense of justice.

According to the Charleston Gazette: “Alpha Natural Resources will spend $200 million on fines, victim restitution and mine safety improvements to resolve enforcement actions and some criminal matters arising from the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.”

The NYT is reporting that it’s “the largest settlement ever in a government investigation of a mine disaster”.

This announcement comes a year and a half after the explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010, which killed 29 of 31 workers in the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in 40 years. The Mine Safety and Health Administration subsequently issued a report finding that “Massey’s corporate culture was the root cause of the tragedy” and fined the company $10.8 million, the largest fine in MSHA history.

What is especially notable about this settlement is that while Alpha Natural Resources is protected from future criminal charges, individual Massey executives are not.

For a more detailed analysis of the settlement, check out Coal Tattoo’s blog.