Blankenship: Upper Big Branch Mine disaster not caused by Massey ‘putting dollars in front of safety’

April 22, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Mine Explosion

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and other Massey executives just finished having their quarterly conference call with financial analysts about the company’s quarterly earnings report, released yesterday evening.

As I reported in today’s Gazette, that quarterly report had this to say about the financial impact on Massey from the disaster:

Financial results for the second quarter 2010 will include a charge related to the tragic accident at the Upper Big Branch mine. While Massey anticipates further analysis will be required, the Company estimates the range of loss to be $80 million to $150 million for charges related to the 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 full book value of equipment, mine and longwall panel development and mineral rights at the mine potentially impacted by the disaster is approximately $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.

And in today’s call, several analysts asked Blankenship about what may have caused the horrible explosion that killed 29 Upper Big Branch Miners … Here’s a bit of one such exchange:

Wayne Cooperman, Colbalt Capital:

Do you guys think something actually happened to cause this or was this just sort of a natural occurring phenomenon?

Blankenship:

Obviously, I don’t want to speculate, but either something went wrong from a natural/unnatural manner that was not foreseeable by us or human beings or somebody made a mistake or something. We don’t know.

Later, Blankenship also said:

It’s not due to us not being focused on safety, not having a strong safety culture, not putting safety first.

Some of the implications have been that we don’t focus on safety or we put dollars in front of safety and nothing could be further from the truth.




4 Responses to “Blankenship: Upper Big Branch Mine disaster not caused by Massey ‘putting dollars in front of safety’”

  1. bo webb says:

    Underground coal miners share a Brotherhood akin to military combatants. I hope and pray that these underground miners remember that their fallen Brothers at UBB now have no voice. Someone must be that voice. They must come forward and report on the working conditions at UBB, and other Massey mines. The life they save may very well be their own, or even their son 15 years from now. If no one stands up for the 29 they will have died in vain. Don Blankenship is not their leader. He does not go underground and work next to them risking his life. To say the things he has said to these stockholders is a slap in the face to his workers. In life we are all faced with choices, sometimes seemingly tough choices. We always make the right choice when we follow our hearts, doing what we know is right. Simply put; What would Jesus do?

  2. Shelby says:

    So far, Blankenship hasn’t come up with an earthquake, or lightning strikes, like the alibis used at Sago; Utah mine disasters. The explosion cause at UBB will , no doubt, be found by the Federal mine inspectors, who have no political ties. I have little confodence in the state inspectors.

  3. Don says:

    Maybe Blankenship doesn’t think that profits aren’t his primary concern. Maybe he thinks that Massey concentrates on safety. If so, then he’s incompetent because — as the NY Times reports today — there are similar mines, not too far away, not run by Massey, and with a far more admirable safety record. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23mine.html?hp

  4. John C says:

    I have not personally seen any violations of safety at any of Massey’s mines simply because of the fact that I have not worked for Massey. BUT, I know many miners who work for or have worked for Massey and almost to the man they say that they violate safety rules each and every day. For instance, I have been told that curtain in many mines is only hung at the end of shifts and the miner cuts are usually to greater depth than the mining/roof control plan permits. I have also been told that there have been several “pop-offs” on the longwall at UBB previously. I asked a miner a few years ago about this and he wouldn’t even comment, I feel, afraid of retaliation from the company. Also, when I worked in the mines(for well over 20 years), I saw inspectors take things from the companies such as, wood hauled to their homes from the timberyard of the mines, small gifts such as knives or any company collectible. To remain above reproach, a person responsible for inspecting mines for safety concerns should conduct themselves in such a manner that noone could ever question their allegiance. In closing, I truly believe that someone, not something, was responsible for the horrific tragedy that has taken twenty-nine of our families and friends from all of us. I hope truth comes from the investigation and the people responsible are brought to task to be held responsible for their actions. I also hope the workers of UBB will “tell it the way it actually was” rather than be scared of retribution from the company. To do otherwise would have their twenty-nine brothers die in vain and them live a lie to their dying day. I, for one, could not bear that on my conscious. May God Bless you this day.

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