The embattled chief executive of Massey Energy accused federal regulators Tuesday of not making a genuine effort to investigate the explosion that killed 29 miners and injured two at the company's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
Instead, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is lying to the public in hopes of winning a publicity battle, Don Blankenship told an industry conference.
"Today what you have is MSHAgate. You've got a situation where they won't tell the truth about what they know,'' he said. "We're not making a genuine effort at the government level to find out what happened.
He said more must be done to prevent explosions, but with the realization that not every blast is avoidable.
An MSHA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment Tuesday evening.
The agency is heading the civil investigation into the April 5 explosion, the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years. The U.S. Department of Justice is overseeing a separate criminal investigation.
Earlier in the day, MSHA announced an emergency rule to require underground mines to do more to control explosive coal dust following the deadliest U.S. coal mine explosion in 40 years. It's first major federal regulatory change since the disaster.
The change comes after growing evidence that coal dust played a role in the blast explosion.
The change will increase the amount of pulverized stone or other inert material that mines must use to dilute coal dust in tunnels that bring fresh air underground.
The change is based on federal research that shows decreasing the amount of coal dust in air intakes can help prevent explosions, Main said.
Mines must comply by Oct. 7 in new areas and by Nov. 22 in existing tunnels, Main said.
The coal industry expressed immediate support for the change, which is already a state requirement in West Virginia.
"West Virginia producers are complying,'' said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association. "Many have carried it to their operations outside West Virginia.''