Former CEO indicted for 2010 mine explosion

A federal grand jury indicted the former CEO of Massey Energy Thursday relating to a 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers.

Don Blankenship was indicted on several charges pertaining to violations of mine safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in the lead up to an April 5, 2010 explosion that killed all but two of the 31 coal miners at the site. According to the Associated Press, the indictment alleges that Blankenship, as CEO of the company that oversaw the mine, was “part of a conspiracy to provide advance warning of federal mine safety inspections, allowing mine bosses to conceal and cover up safety violations.”

A report published in May 2011 by the Mine Safety and Health Administration said that inspectors flagged numerous violations in the years before the explosion. “Inspectors spent 1,854 hours at the mine in 2009, nearly twice the time as in 2007,” the report stated. “During 2009, they wrote 515 citations and orders for safety violations, including 48 withdrawal orders for repeated significant and substantial (S&S) violations.”

The report attributed the explosion to a methane ignition, “which led to a methane explosion and then transitioned into a coal dust explosion.” The ignition resulted in a fire that miners were unable to put out due to broken water sprayers.

If convicted, Blankenship can face up to 31 years in prison.