Coal Tattoo

Alpha to pay $200 million in Upper Big Branch deal

Various media outlets are posting late-breaking stories about tomorrow’s release of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

Kris Maher at The Wall Street Journal is reporting that MSHA is expected to levy a record safety fine, and Ellen Smith from Mine Safety and Health news is reporting that the government has reached some sort of a global settlement with Alpha Natural Resources. Not surprisingly, Ellen is right, and we’ve got some of the details posted in this exclusive Gazette story:

Alpha Natural Resources will spend $200 million on fines, victim restitution and mine safety improvements to resolve enforcement actions and some criminal matters arising from the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the Gazette has learned.

Federal prosecutors are set to announce the deal this morning, just hours before the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is to brief families on the agency’s long-awaited report on the April 2010 explosion, according to sources who have been briefed on the settlement.

The groundbreaking, “global settlement,” covers civil penalties and some limited criminal liability assumed by Alpha when it bought Massey Energy in June, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been officially announced.


Under the settlement, civil penalties for the Upper Big Branch Mine operators, Performance Coal Co., would be resolved. So would potential criminal liability for the company.

But unlike a previous government deal with Massey, the deal does not resolve any potential criminal violations by any officers or agents of Performance Coal or Massey, sources said.

When then-U.S. Attorney Charles Miller in December 2008 settled civil and criminal matters concerning the January 2006 Aracoma Mine fire, the deal included an unusual promise not to prosecute any officers or employees of the Massey parent company.


U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. to announce the deal and provide more details.