Despite promises from the Obama administration and Gov. Joe Manchin, no clear plan has yet been announced for providing any transparency or public access for the investigative interviews. Typically, such interviews occur behind closed doors, often with coal company lawyers allowed to attend.
No interviews have taken place as of Wednesday evening, and the first interviews were scheduled to begin Tuesday, officials said.
"Final protocols have not been established," said Jama Jarrett, spokeswoman for state mine safety director Ron Wooten. "However, previous measures for other events taken by our office did not include open interviews for the public, press or families. In prior cases, transcripts were made public at the conclusion of the investigation.
"However, protocols and procedures could change as we move forward, given the fact that this investigation is entirely separate and unique from past events," Jarrett said.
At least two widows from the Upper Big Branch disaster have asked MSHA to conduct its investigation through a formal public hearing, something MSHA has authority for, but has very seldom ever done. MSHA has not yet responded publicly to those requests.
Also Thursday, Massey said it anticipates a loss of $80 million to $150 million related to the disaster for "benefits being provided to the families of the fallen miners, costs associated with the rescue and recovery efforts, insurance deductibles, possible legal and other contingencies."
In addition, the company said the value of equipment and mineral rights potentially impacted by the disaster is about $62 million. "Massey will assess these assets for possible impairment once full access to the mine is restored, but it does expect to recover much of the equipment," the company said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.