Two workers who quit Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in the months just before the explosion that killed 29 miners say they did so because they thought it was going to blow up.
One miner who quit told NPR News, “Basically what they’ve done is created a massive bomb underground. I knew it was going to happen.”
Another miner who had worked in a section affected by the explosion said methane levels caused detectors to go off “all the time — three, four, five times a shift.”
Those interviews come in the wake of a report from Massey that says readings showed no indication of a dangerous methane gas condition just before the explosion occurred.
Massey also blames unions for spreading false information about the mine.
Teddy Cole, who worked a dozen years at Upper Big Branch, said, “It’s supposed to be safety first, but to me it was production first.”
An internal memo from Massey CEO Don Blankenship in 2005 seems to support that claim.
“If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. — build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal,” the memo said. “This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that coal pays the bills.”
The memo became public in a lawsuit filed in the deaths of two miners at a Massey operation in 2006. A Massey subsidiary eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.
Blankenship says the memo was taken out of context.