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President Roberts' statement about today's MSHA update on the Upper Big Branch investigation

June 29, 2011
For immediate release?: 

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The update given by officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) about their investigation into the April 2010 Upper Big Branch disaster – while not offering much new information as to the root causes of the tragedy – did bring to light some new and troubling information.

“MSHA’s revelation that there were two sets of books kept at the mine where information about safety issues were recorded demonstrates the utter contempt for mine safety and health laws that was pervasive throughout the entire management structure at Massey Energy.

“When mine management records continuing safety issues and hazards at the mine in production and maintenance reports, yet omits the same information from the official safety examination logbook, it confirms that management knew there were serious problems at the mine, yet chose to hide them from safety officials and the miners themselves. That’s a crime, and punishment for those responsible for this cannot be too severe.

“I also must say that the presentation made today completely repudiates former Massey Chairman Bobby Inman’s attempt to blame natural causes for this disaster. MSHA's report conclusively proves that the so-called “crack” in the floor -- where Inman says a massive influx of natural gas emerged -- could not have been the source for that kind of inundation.

“The evidence of significant intimidation of miners and even foremen at the Upper Big Branch mine in order to keep them from taking steps to make the mine a safer place to work is especially troubling, but not surprising. That was a long-term practice at Massey mines, part of a top-down culture at the company that put profits first and workers last.

“It’s time for the former Massey decision-makers whose policies created the safety-last culture at Massey to come clean and take responsibility for their actions.

“The UMWA, acting as a miners’ representative, is investigating this tragedy as well. That investigation is ongoing, and we expect to be releasing our report before the end of the summer.”

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