Read the report here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two days after Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey Energy, the former chairman of Massey's board resumed promoting the contention that the deadly explosion a year ago at the Upper Big Branch Mine was a natural disaster.
The move by former Massey chairman Bobby Inman comes at a time when Inman and other Massey board members and top executives are under increasing legal and public pressure over potential personal liability for the deaths of 29 miners in the April 5, 2010, explosion.
On Friday, Inman distributed copies of a Massey report that criticizes government investigators who have blamed the mine disaster on Massey's poor safety practices and a corporate culture that put profits before protecting workers.
In a cover letter, Inman said the Massey report was completed several weeks ago, but he delayed releasing it at Alpha's request until after the buyout was approved by the shareholders of both companies.
"It would have been easy to just let it slide," wrote Inman, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and intelligence officer.
"The overwhelming reason for proceeding to release the report now on my own is a strong sense of responsibility for all those who mine coal," he wrote. "The report has the potential to secure long-term improvement in their safety as they go about their critical mission of producing the coal that powers so much of our country."
The 169-page Massey report repeats the company's theory that a huge and uncontrollable flood of natural gas inundated that Upper Big Branch Mine, fueling an explosion the company could not have foreseen or prevented. It argues that coal dust played no role in the disaster, that poor maintenance of a mining machine cutting tool was not a factor, and insists Massey's ventilation practices at the mine were not involved in the explosion.
"The evidence does not disclose any failure by [Massey subsidiary] Performance [Coal] that contributed to the explosion or to the number of fatalities, including in the areas of rock dusting, ventilation, or shearer maintenance," the report concludes.
Massey also harshly criticizes what is says is the lack of an independent investigation that would have properly examined the role that actions of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration could have played in the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in nearly 40 years.
However, the Massey document itself does not mention the independent investigation by a team led by longtime safety advocate Davitt McAteer.
In its report last month, the McAteer team concluded the disaster was caused by Massey's failure to follow basic safety standards, and by a corporate culture that put coal production ahead of worker safety. McAteer and his team cited poor ventilation practices, illegal accumulations of highly explosive coal dust, and a failure to maintain water sprays and cutting bits on the longwall shearer. The McAteer report rejects the notion that a huge methane inundation was to blame, instead finding that a small amount of methane seeped into the working section from the mined-out area behind the longwall machine.
The McAteer report also criticized the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training and said the fact that 29 miners died in a mine explosion was "prove positive" that MSHA "failed its duty as a watchdog for coal miners."