Sources have told a newspaper that federal authorities are interviewing current and former Massey Energy employees as part of a “sprawling criminal investigation” into the April 5 fatal explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.
Twenty-nine miners died in the explosion.
The Charleston Gazette reports that the investigation is looking into whether any criminal violations of mandatory health and safety standards were committed in connection with the explosion at the Massey Energy mine.
Violating safety and health standards could lead to misdemeanor criminal charges. Faking required mine safety records or other safety documents required by MSHA is a felony.
Mining disasters with multiple deaths in 1989, 1991 and 1992 led to criminal charges against mine operators and company officials. The four most recent coal mining disasters — those with five or more deaths in one incident — didn’t lead to criminal charges.
An investigation into the January 2006 fire that killed two miners resulted in Massey Energy’s Aracoma Coal subsidiary pleading guilty to 10 criminal violations and paying a $2.5 million criminal fine, as well as admitting that one of the violations resulted in the deaths of the two miners.
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