Coal Tattoo

The McAteer team’s new report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster describes in some detail the alleged actions of a Massey Energy foreman, Jeremy Burghduff, who it appears didn’t always perform the important mine safety checks required of him.

Burghduff was responsible for “firebossing” the important mine tunnels near the longwall section, the area leading back to the mine’s main ventilation fan at Bandytown. According to the McAteer report:

Investigators downloaded data from the methane detectors used by Burghduff for the period of September 2009 through April 23, 2010. In the seek weeks preceding the disaster, when he was supposed to be checking for hazardous conditions in the area leading back to the Bandytown fan, the “Burghdog” device was not turned on during at least 25 of his work shifts.

The report continues:

The foreman’s anemometer readings taken in the Bandytown fan area were also questionable. Investigators questioned the lack of fluctuation in readings taken from February 16 through March 10. The velocity generated by the fan was approximately 400,000 cubic feet per minute. Yet Burghduff’s reading indicated less than one-tenth of one percent variation.

The McAteer team commented:

This data raises doubt about the daily and weekly air readings and other data recorded by the crew foreman in the weeks leading up to the disaster. Accurate air readings and water levels in those key ventilation entries would provide a valuable history of conditions in a critical part of the mine in the days and weeks just prior to the explosion.

Incredibly, the McAteer report also tells us:

Data downloaded from methane detectors indicated that devices used by other foremen also had not been turned on at times when the foremen were underground and responsible for identifying hazardous conditions.

And in an issue that NPR’s Howard Berkes has done much reporting about, the McAteer team says:

Testimony suggested that methane detectors on equipment had been ‘bridged out’ or disabled, so that production could continue without taking time to make repairs. Although equipment disabling has not been directly tied to the explosion itself, this practice is a present and constant danger to workers and a violation of state and federal law.

Davitt McAteer just told the Upper Big Branch families:

This company ran this mine in a profoundly reckless manner.