Massey CEO Don Blankenship on coal-mining disasters: ‘Oftentimes they are unavoidable’

July 22, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is certainly making the rounds today, in support of his company’s latest PR campaign — this one an all-out effort to convince the public that the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster was an unavoidable act of God.

Here’s one select quote from Blankenship’s lunchtime talk at the National Press Club in Washington:

I’m a realist. The politicians will tell you we’re going to do something so this never happens again you won’t hear me say that. Because I believe that the physics of natural law and God trump whatever man tries to do. Whether you get earthquakes underground, whether you get broken floors, whether you get gas inundations, whether you get roof falls, oftentimes they are unavoidable just as other accidents are in society. So, the idea that we can prevent it from happening again is one that I’m cautious not to say that, although I can tell you there is no one more motivated and intending to try harder to avoid it happening again than I am and Massey’s management time is.

C-Span hasn’t posted the video yet, but I’ll add it once it’s available. UPDATED: Here’s a link to that video.

Meantime, Blankenship also gave an “exclusive interview” to Bloomberg news. Among his remarks in that interview:

We don’t know for sure what happened. We do know that there was a crack in the floor near where the mine was operating … and that we have seen that seven years or so ago that happened. It releases a tremendous amount of gas at one time.

Here’s the video of that interview:

UPDATED: And, thanks to the nice folks at Bloomberg’s PR department, here is a transcript of the longer interview.

We’ve already seen MSHA’s response to today’s Massey campaign … and I just interviewed Davitt McAteer, Gov. Joe Machin’s special investigator for the UBB Disaster, and he told me:

If a mining method or a mine seam is vulnerable or prone to methane outbursts then the question is what precautions were taken or have been implemented to prevent these outbursts from turning into a cataclysmic event.

The effort to place blame on God or another person is not an uncommon practice after disasters, particularly in the mining industry. But investigations have almost always led to the conclusion that it wasn’t God who did it.

4 Responses to “Massey CEO Don Blankenship on coal-mining disasters: ‘Oftentimes they are unavoidable’”

  1. c w kauffman says:

    And, as I recall an earthquake was the cause of the Utah disaster.

  2. Monty says:

    Anyone remember what was the REAL cause of the Buffalo Creek Disaster? That was an Act of God too.

    But as one of the survivors of that particular King Coal boo boo pointed out, she didn’t see God on a bulldozer pushing the goo around on Pittston Coal’s slurry dam right before it failed. It will be interesting to see what role the diety ends up playing in the official UBB report.

  3. rhmooney3 says:

    What I truly want to know is how come safety devices like methane detector shutoffs can be bypassed?

    Even automobile pollution equipment sensor cannot be bypassed.

    It seems that mine safey is some type of hide-n-seek game where people pretend not to be able to see what everyone well knows exists.

    Yes, Mr. Blankenship himself is a result of an Act of God if he wants to really use that pitfully excuse. And by they way, actions speak louder than words so he might as well be silient.

  4. Tom Iarossi says:

    The Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Utah was not an earthquake. The most recent evidence was that the seismic evidence occured when the mine collapsed, not he other way around.

    In any case, any time man has messed with something, any damage cannot be ascribed to an “act of God”. Steps need to be taken by the powers as they mess with nature to avoid everything from cracked floors to gas inundations to potentially explosive environments. Mountains do not naturally explode unless some outside force is applied, like boring into them and releasing explosive gases. Just as the BP disaster was not an act of God, as claimed by some southern politicians, neither was the UBB disaster anything but human caused.

    This is another example of people like Blankenship failing to take responsibility for their actions. He gambled with the lives of his miners and lost. He needs to own up to that and take the proper steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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