CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the closing date for its buyout of Massey Energy fast approaching, Alpha Natural Resources is distancing itself from Massey's troubled safety record and downplaying the influence of Massey executives on the combined company.
Alpha spokesman Ted Pile said Thursday night that a top Massey vice president, Chris Adkins, won't help run the safety portions of Alpha's "Running Right" program and will not be part of the "chain of responsibility" for safety and health practices after the buyout.
"[Adkins] won't have any responsibility for our primary safety program," Pile said in an email to the Gazette-Mail.
The role Adkins, Massey's chief operating officer, would have at the combined company was questioned Thursday by Davitt McAteer in an independent report on the deaths of 29 miners in the April 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine.
In a 126-page report, McAteer and his team noted that Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield had announced in mid-April that Adkins would co-direct the Running Right Office of Safety and Excellence.
"One need look no further than UBB, where conditions, as described in this report, reflected a mine in which safety standards were swept aside in the rush to produce coal," the McAteer report said.
McAteer's team also noted that Adkins was chief operating officer of Massey in January 2006, when a fire at the company's Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine killed two miners. Massey's Aracoma Coal Co. subsidiary admitted to criminal safety violations related to that fire.
The report also noted Adkins was chief operating officer of Massey when conditions at the company's Freedom Mine in Kentucky prompted the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration to seek a federal court injunction to close the mine.
Pressed about the matter during a Thursday news conference, McAteer said he's concerned that Alpha executives "have not grasped the magnitude of the problem" with Massey's safety culture and practices. "Those questions need to be answered by the purchasing company," he said.