More than five years after 29 miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., justice was finally served as former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was found criminally guilty for a conspiracy to willfully violate the Mine Safety and Health Act. While the tragedy was the largest loss of life in a mine accident in the United States since 1970, numerous other workers have lost their lives in Massey mines.
Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts issued the following statement in response to the conviction:
A measure of justice has been served through the conviction of Don Blankenship on federal charges of conspiring to violate mine safety standards. The truth that was common knowledge in the coalfields—that Don Blankenship cared little for the safety and health of miners working for his company and even less for the laws enforcing their rights—has finally been proven in court.
This decision will not bring back the 52 people killed on Massey Energy property during Blankenship’s reign as the head of that company, including the 29 killed at the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010. Their families still must live without their loved ones, holding their grief in their hearts the rest of their lives.
But a message has gone out today to every coal operator in America who is willing to skirt mine safety and health laws: you do so at your own personal risk. I thank the jury for having the courage to send this message and establish a clear deterrent to this kind of activity. Hopefully that deterrent will keep more miners alive and intact in the years to come.