Davitt McAteer was commissioned to lead an independent investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, an explosion in the Massey operated mine in Raleigh County, W.VA that killed 29 miners last April. McAteer and his team finished their investigation and released the information to the families of the miners who perished in the disaster. What they found was staggering, but to many it wasn’t surprising. Many believed, as I have pointed out previously and thus subscribed to, that Massey Energy was to blame for the explosion. Massey ran a non-union mine (to which former-CEO Don Blankenship proudly proclaimed) in Raleigh County, and appeared to disregard many safety regulations that culminated in the worst coal-mine disaster that the United States has seen in 40 years. Coal Tattoo has provided a lot of information about the investigation panel’s findings and the subsequent reactions from the press etc. The McAteer investigation team produced a lot of information that was compiled over the past several months, but the bottom line of the investigation clearly sticks out.
The bottom line in McAteer’s report:
The explosion was the result of failures of basic safety systems identified and codified to protect the lives of miners.
The disaster at Upper Big Branch was man-made and could have been prevented.
The bottom line: It could have been prevented. Massey Energy’s negligence was a key player leading into the deaths of those West Virginia miners. In a press release provided by the Coal Tattoo blog, McAteer’s investigation panel had this to say:
Such total and catastrophic systemic failures can only be explained in the context of a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation became the norm. In such a culture it was acceptable to mine coal with insufficient air; with buildups of coal dust; with inadequate rock dust. The same culture allowed Massey Energy to use its resources to create a false public image to mislead the public, community leaders and investors — the perception that the company exceeded industry safety standards. And it became acceptable to cast agencies designed to protect miners as enemies and to make life difficult for miners who tried to address safety. It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices makes sense.
This is a quickly developing story with more information to come soon.