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West Virginia issues final report, cites 253 violations in UBB explosion

February 29, 2012

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Beckley, WV – Excessive coal dust fueled the April 2010 explosion of methane gas at the Upper Big Branch mine, concludes a final report (large .pdf file) released Feb. 23 by the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

In connection with the investigation, the state issued 253 violations. Echoing three previous reports on the explosion, the Feb. 23 report cited inadequate ventilation and insufficient rock dusting to prevent coal dust buildup. In addition, the report singled out two foremen for repeatedly failing to clean conveyer belts and apply rock dust.

The report’s release coincided with the Department of Justice announcing felony conspiracy charges against a former UBB mine superintendent. Gary May was accused (.pdf file) of conspiring to defraud the government between February 2008 and April 5, 2010. May allegedly disabled a methane monitor, falsified records and alerted miners to surprise inspections, among other acts. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Also in February, former UBB security chief Hughie Stover was sentenced to three years in prison on felony charges connected to the investigation. Stover was convicted in October of ordering the disposal of security-related documents and lying to investigators about security guards giving advance notice of MSHA inspectors onsite.

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