CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal investigators looking into the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster have discovered more than two-dozen alleged violations of rules that require mine operators to report workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses.
After an audit of Massey Energy subsidiary Performance Coal, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors last week issued 25 citations alleging violations of federal reporting requirements.
MSHA did not list any of the citations as "significant or substantial," which means the reporting violations did not pose a threat of injury to miners. Fines for the 25 reporting violations have not yet been assessed, and Massey has the right to appeal the citations and any monetary penalties.
A review of MSHA data show similar violations were cited by agency inspectors following previous mining deaths at Upper Big Branch in 2001 and 2003.
Reporting violations also were discovered by MSHA inspectors in audits conducted after seven other Massey mining deaths since 2000, according to a review of agency records.
"This is yet another unfortunate example of the callous disregard Massey Energy appears to have for even the most basic of mine safety laws and regulations," said Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers union. "Massey management seems to think it can thumb its nose at simple reporting requirements like this, which only reinforces the notion that the corporate culture fostered by those at the highest levels of this company has been and remains production first, safety last."
In a prepared statement, Massey Energy said the company is reviewing the citations.
"At this time, we can say that we agree with some citations and disagree with others, but are not prepared to discuss individual citations at this time," the statement said.
The statement also said Massey officials "have been conducting a more thorough review of our accident reporting at all Massey operations.