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Massey led industry in 2Q fines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Massey Energy received far more citations and fines from federal mine safety officials during the second quarter of the year than other publicly traded coal companies, according to new reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Massey was fined more than $4 million and cited for more than 1,200 violations by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the period from April through June, according to the company's filings.

No other coal producer was fined more than $1 million during the same period, according to an analysis of the SEC filings by firm SNL Energy.

Under the new financial markets reform bill, coal operators are now required to report quarterly to the SEC and their stockholders about significant safety violations and fines issued by MSHA. The language was added to the law by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va.

SNL Energy said that the first round of SEC filings showed "that Massey topped the list in virtually every category.

"In addition to being assessed more than four times more fines than any other public coal company, Massey was cited for the highest number of significant violations ..." SNL's report said.

Companies with the second and third largest number of citations were Peabody Energy Corp and CONSOL Energy Inc., which received 705 and 546, respectively, during the quarter.

SNL Energy said a "mitigating factor" for Massey is that it operates the largest number of coal mines of any U.S. public sector producer, and many of those operations are underground mines in Appalachia "where more complex mining with larger work forces tend to occur, often resulting in more safety violations than a large-scale surface mine in the western United States."

The firm also noted that Massey has been under additional scrutiny following the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers at its Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

But SNL Energy said its review of the SEC filings found "the data was not unreasonably skewed by violations at Upper Big Branch alone" and that Massey "accumulated a high number of safety violations at many of its mines."

Massey did not respond to a request for comment.

Also this week, MSHA made public copies of the citations issued by its inspectors as part of an audit of compliance with injury and accident reporting requirements at Upper Big Branch.

MSHA regularly conducts such audits following major mining accidents. Agency officials have previously disclosed the existence of the citations and some general information about them, but had not made the documents available until Monday.

The records show that Massey did not report to MSHA as required the fact that four Upper Big Branch workers did not return to work after the April 5 explosion.

At least one worker from the mine has told a congressional committee he has been unable to return to work because of emotional problems caused by the mine disaster.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.

 


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