Mine Safety

Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal report says the wall that crushed a miner to death in West Virginia earlier this year wasn't properly supported.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Regular disclosures to investors about publicly traded mining companies' safety violations and worker deaths would no longer be required under legislation sponsored by West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney.

The bill was advanced this week by the House Financial Services Committee.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

West Virginia lawmakers have begun advancing revisions in coal mining regulation after removing provisions that would have sharply reduced safety inspections of underground mines.

The Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining approved a substitute bill that would have chopped required annual state safety inspections from four to one.

Don Blankenship
Joel Ebert / The Charleston Gazette-Mail

A panel of appellate judges has affirmed a ruling that sent former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to prison.  The decision means he’ll serve out the remainder of his one-year prison term in a California penitentiary. 

Congressman Ken Hechler paid to bring hundreds of miners and the widows of the Farmington miners to protest at the nation’s capitol.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

Longtime West Virginia Congressman, Secretary of State, and World War II veteran, Ken Hechler has died at the age of 102. He was known nationwide for his work in improving coal mine health and safety, among many other accomplishments.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, an NPR Investigation in 2014 found Justice was one of many coal mine owners across the country who had ignored millions of dollars in safety fines, putting miners at risk. At the time, Justice promised to pay all of his fines.

He didn't. In fact, NPR has found he is now the nation’s top delinquent mine owner, owing more money than he did two years ago and NPR's Howard Berkes reports his debts extend far beyond his coal mines.

U.S. National Archive Jack Corn

On Inside Appalachia this week, a look back at VISTA workers and the impact they had on our region in the 1960's. They were Volunteers in Service to America.  VISTA was started in December 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson as part of his "War on Poverty". 

Underground Mine, Miners, Mining
Robert PEnergy / wikimedia commons

The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training will receive more than $524,000 in federal funds for training courses aimed at reducing mining accidents, injuries and illnesses.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced the grants Wednesday. MSHA has awarded $8.4 million in grants to 47 states and the Navajo Nation.

Finding Meaning in the Blankenship Verdict

Dec 7, 2015
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Ashton Marra talks with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin about his reaction to the verdict in the federal mine safety case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.  Also, Jessica Lilly talks with Tony Oppegard, an attorney representing miners for his take on what the verdicts means for coal miners. 

These stories on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

AP Photo/Jeff Gentner

There’s been landmark news here in the coalfields.

After 10 days of deliberation, jurors have found former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards.

Jeff Pierson

Lead defense attorney Bill Taylor said the government has provided no solid evidence to back its claim that former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship conspired to violate federal mine safety laws and lied about his company's safety records to investors and securities officials.

"Paper is what the government has brought you," Taylor said in the first half of his closing argument Tuesday morning. "No witnesses, no proof."

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Nov. 20 marks the anniversary of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, which killed 78 men. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 50 years. On Sunday, a crowd of about 150 people gathered at the memorial of the Farmington Mine Disaster.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The prosecution wrapped their redirect examination of former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard late Friday afternoon, but the unconventional witness may not be done on the stand just yet. Defense attorneys Friday moved to “take another crack” at Blanchard.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After a week on the stand and nearly five days of cross examination by the defense, prosecutors are attempting to save their case set off track by former Performance Coal President Chris Blanchard. In this week's episode of the podcast "Blankenship on Trial," host Dave Mistich discusses Blanchard's testimony with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam. 

Jeff Pierson

As defense attorneys continued their fourth day of cross examining a government witness, a federal judge has once again ruled to exclude defense presented evidence from the trial of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship. 

Blankenship's lead attorney, Bill Taylor ad attempted to enter videos of a 2009 Massey safety meeting as evidence in his cross examination of former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard. 

Jeff Pierson

In his third day in the witness seat, former Marfork and Performance Coal President Chris Blanchard continued to answer questions about safety priorities at Massey Energy.

Blanchard is testifying in the trial of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship who faces charges for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and lying to investors and securities officials. 

Blanchard's coal group oversaw production at the Upper Big Branch mine. 

Provided

A national worker safety organization is using the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster as call to action for the nation to enforce stricter safety standards to prevent workplace deaths.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released their report “Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths 2015” Thursday ahead of the national Workers Memorial Week, which runs from Saturday, April 25, through Saturday, May 2.


Dave Mistich / via Tableau Public (Data from MSHA)

Sunday marked five years since a tragedy in southern West Virginia that still fills headlines across the state. Five years ago, April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal in Raleigh County killed 29 men.

Data analyzed by SNL Energy's Taylor Kuykendall and Hira Fawad suggests underground coal mines in Appalachia that have unionized are not only safer, but also more productive.

Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in a mine safety case.

Blankenship entered his plea on Tuesday at an arraignment hearing in U.S. District Court in Beckley. The hearing was based on a new, superseding indictment handed up earlier this month.

Federal regulators issued 199 citations during impact inspections of U.S. mines in November.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted the inspections at 10 coal mines and six metal and nonmetal mines.

Garbage to be Turned into Fuel in Berkeley County

Nov 21, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Liz McCormick reports on “resource recovery,” a polite way to say how household garbage can be used for fuel.  And Jessica Lilly joins Beth Vorhees to describe the scene at the arraignment of former Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship Thursday in Beckley.

Farmington Mine Disaster 46 Years Ago Today

Nov 20, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, a widow of the Farmington Mine disaster, which happened 46 years ago today, remembers the last day she spent with her husband in an archived interview from 1992.  And Beth Vorhees talks with the director of the Partnership for Elder Living about aging issues facing the state. 

Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

A federal Magistrate has denied former Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s request to delay arraignment proceedings.

According to court records, Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort denied Blankenship’s request to postpone his initial court appearance. VanDervort ordered Blankenship to appear in court, surrender his passport, prepare to meet and discuss his financial circumstances, and other actions to prepare for court proceedings.

The former Massey CEO  is set to be arraigned in federal court on Thursday. The former leader of what was once one of the largest coal producers in the country Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship was indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office on two mine safety charges, lying to the securities and exchange commission and securities fraud.

The decision to proceed this week with his arraignment comes days after the judge presiding over Blankenship’s criminal case issued a gag order for the parties involved.

UBB Victim's Father Reacts to Blankenship Indictment

Nov 14, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Jessica Lilly talks with the father of one of the victims of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion who welcomes the news that former CEO of the company that owned the mine has been indicted.  And Dave Mistich reports from Parkersburg about the posted signs asking people not to give money to panhandlers.

Mine Safety Threatened by Deliquent Fines

Nov 13, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Jessica Lilly talks with NPR’s Howard Berkes about his investigation that links delinquent fines for mine safety violations to more injured coal miners.  And schools in Mingo County are no longer under state control after the state board of education gave back control to the local school board yesterday, but the board remains concerned about educational conditions in Fayette County.

Southern Coal
Patrick Graham

Another West Virginia coal miner died this week, the fifth death this year. It's a tough reality in the coalfields where families regularly pray that loved ones will come home from a day's work, as they have for decades.

As incidents are reported, media outlets often share the amount of citations or delinquent fines of the mine where the accident occurred. But to what end?

Aracoma Miners Honored at Mine Academy

Oct 28, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, in 2006 two miners died in a mine fire in Logan County.  Eight years later, a fire training facility is dedicated in their memory.  Also, noted food promoter the James Beard Foundation has honored five local food organizations in West Virginia.

The government says that the number of chronic safety violators among mine operators has fallen sharply in recent years.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the number has dropped in response to reforms the agency has taken to rein in mines cited frequently for safety violations.

Prior to 2010 no mine had ever been placed on a pattern of violations, or POV status. Safety reforms aligned the POV regulatory rule, with Congress’s original intent in enacting the Mine Act.
 

State mining officials are citing Patriot Coal for serious violations during a severe coal burst that killed two miners in May.

The enforcement action by the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training says the mine did not have proper support in its walls and roofs.

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