The second anniversary of the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine tragedy is not passing quietly. On the eve of the disaster in West Virginia, which occurred two years ago today, the family of one of the 29 miners who died has filed a lawsuit, and the mine’s current owner has announced its intent to close the operation permanently.
Calling April 5, 2010 “the single most heartbreaking day of my tenure,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis issued a statement on the eve of the second anniversary of the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine tragedy.
Solis said she would never forget the 29 men who died in the explosion, the two miners who were seriously injured or their loved ones.
In her statement Wednesday, Solis said she would pursue violators “with the full force of the law,” and noted that MSHA is taking “major steps” to make sure “we never again see such a senseless loss of life.”
MSHA slapped the operator of the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine with its largest civil penalty ever after concluding the accident could be traced to a corporate culture that valued profits over people.
The $10.8 million fine, announced Tuesday against Alpha Natural Resources, was nearly five times higher than the $2.3 million MSHA assessed against Magma Copper in 1993. But it was small change compared to a $203 million settlement against Alpha announced earlier in the day by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The security director at the Upper Big Branch-South Mine testified Tuesday that ordering a guard to dispose of documents was “the stupidest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.”
The United Mine Workers of America’s (UMWA) conclusion about the cause of the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine tragedy mirrors those of state and federal investigators, but its top recommendation for what to do about it is its own: open a grand jury probe into the disaster.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) has ruled that mining companies may not withhold accident, injury and illness data from MSHA.
Three weeks before the fatal explosion at the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine, an MSHA ventilation specialist alerted a Massey Energy Co. executive to a ventilation problem at the mine.