Photo via the Guardian
A tragic explosion thought to be brought about by a methane leak in a West Virginia coal mine has left 25 dead and 4 missing. The blast occurred in a mine operated by Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the US. Reports are surfacing that the mine where the accident occurred had a history of serious safety violations--including known methane leaks--and it had received 57 infractions for such violations just last month. ABC News reports that the violations at the disaster site include repeatedly failing to develop and follow a ventilation plan that would have properly released methane--perhaps contributing to yesterday's tragedy by allowing the flammable gas to accumulate. The company has a history of ignoring and fighting fines for violations, evidently:
The federal records catalog the problems at the Upper Big Branch mine, operated by the Performance Coal Company. They show the company was fighting many of the steepest fines, or simply refusing to pay them. Performance is a subsidiary of Massey Energy. Another Massey subsidiary agreed to pay $4.2 million in criminal and civil fines last year and admitted to willfully violating mandatory safety standards that led to the deaths of two miners. The fine was the largest penalty in the history of the coal industry.The rescue effort is complicated, requiring an access road first be bulldozed so that rescuers can drill vents to release the accumulated carbon dioxide and methane before venturing below to seek out the survivors. The search will begin around 6 pm tonight, according to West Virginia governor Joe Manchin.
This tragedy is the worst to have occur since 1984, when a fire in a Utah mine killed 27. And the event is made even more tragic knowing that it may have been prevented with the proper oversight from the company that employed the deceased.