Ex-CEO Faces Max Jail Time for Mine Explosion & Worker Deaths

CHARLESTON, W. VA  — In the six years since the fatal Upper Big Branch mine explosion, prosecutors have attempted to make Don Blakenship accountable for his actions. Currently, the federal government is trying to make Blankenship serve a maximum sentence and pay the maximum amount allowed in fines due to his role in the West Virginia mine explosion.

In January 2006 one miner died in Melville, West Virginia during a mine blast. April 5, 2010 twenty-nine Massey Energy workers died when the Upper Big Branch mine exploded. Both of these disasters happened under Blankenship’s watch. As of now, Blankenship is facing $250,000 in fines and one year in prison for both incidents. Booth Goodwin, a U.S. attorney says that is not enough.

Goodwin insists that as investigations continue, more incriminating evidence is being unearthed against Blankenship. In a powerful plea, Goodwin asks Judge Irene Berger which is worse, a drug dealer with no other options but to sell drugs, or a wealthy CEO who full knowing sends his workers into dangerous conditions everyday? A subsidiary of the Massey company has already admitted to knowing about improper ventilation systems in the mines and failed safety inspections.

Upper Big Branch launched an investigation titled Industrial Homicide further exploring the 2010 blast. While investigating Upper Big Branch, reporters found that workers were largely dissatisfied in the company’s lax approach to safety standards. Some workers reported that company officials openly did not care about implementing safety standards. Massey would knowingly go around laws and regulations. Officials thought that they would never be caught.

Included in the report were comments from prosecutors. Several prosecutors released that for a long time now, experts have known what causes mines to explode. They have also constructed preventative measures in that time to assure these tragedies happen less and less. Explosions would be less common if companies did not cut corners, and listened to the regulations and precautions experts and officials have put in place.

Source: PAI