MSHA: UBB had two sets of books

June 29, 2011

Beaver, WV – Massey Energy Co. kept two sets of books at the Upper Big Branch Mine-South, where 29 miners died last year, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Speaking at a public briefing (.pdf file) June 29, MSHA coal administrator Kevin Stricklin said agency investigators found Massey, the mine’s owner, kept an official book for government inspectors and a separate production book detailing safety issues. Stricklin said keeping multiple books is not illegal; however, operators are required to list hazardous conditions in the official examination book, and Stricklin cited three dates where the official log did not mention concerns but the other book recorded safety problems.

He also refuted Massey’s theory that the explosion was caused by a sudden inundation of methane gas. Rather, evidence indicates a limited amount of methane caused a localized explosion that spread because of excessive coal dust in the mine, he said.

Although MSHA’s investigation is ongoing, these findings line up with the report (.pdf file) released last May by the Governor’s Independent Investigative Panel.