Read the report : http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The United Mine Workers union on Tuesday accused Massey Energy of "industrial homicide" and demanded criminal prosecution of mine managers who ran the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.
UMW experts issued their own 154-page report detailing what it called "gross violations" of accepted safety standards and a corporate "culture that demanded production at any cost."
"This should not have happened. This should not be tolerated," UMW President Cecil Roberts said at a Charleston press conference. "We think the people responsible for the operation of this mine should be held accountable."
Roberts said he's not pleased with the progress so far in a federal criminal probe that has produced only charges against a rank-and-file miner who faked foreman's credentials and a security director who is on trial this week, charged with lying to investigators and destroying evidence.
"We've got a security guard who has been indicted, but [former Massey CEO] Don Blankenship can't figure out how to spend all of his money," Roberts said.
The UMW report blasted non-union Massey, which is now part of Alpha Natural Resources, but also had harsh words for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training.
Union officials criticized MSHA and the state for not shutting down the mine, despite repeated incidents of serious ventilation violations. But the UMW focused its criticism on the MSHA district office in Southern West Virginia, and didn't once mention MSHA chief Joe Main, a retired longtime union safety director, in its lengthy report.
In a prepared statement, Main said the UMW report's findings "underline the fact that MSHA can't be in every mine every shift, and that some mine operators take advantage of that.
"That's why we've called on Congress to provide us with the tools necessary to protect the health and safety of our nation's miners, including provisions to adequately protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they speak out about safety," Main said in the statement.
The UMW report, though, notes that MSHA did not use a variety of tools it already has -- such as inspection blitzes, pattern of violations orders and flagrant penalties of $200,000 per violation -- to crack down at Upper Big Branch prior to the explosion.
Upper Big Branch was a non-union mine, but UMW officials investigated the disaster after being named by surviving miners as their official representatives in the probe.
Alpha officials did not respond to Gazette requests for comment on the UMW report, but have previously said the company started its own investigation of the disaster after acquiring Massey in June.
Overall, UMW investigators agreed with the findings of longtime mine safety advocate Davitt McAteer's team, which concluded the explosion involved an ignition of a small amount of methane gas that turned into a massive coal-dust blast because of Massey's poor safety practices.