The conviction last week of former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship on charges related to the 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia will hopefully keep miners alive going forward, according to United Mine Workers of America International (UMWA) President Cecil E. Roberts.
“A measure of justice has been served through the conviction of Don Blankenship on federal charges of conspiring to violate mine safety standards,” said Roberts in a statement. “The truth that was common knowledge in the coalfields – that Don Blankenship cared little for the safety and health of miners working for his company and even less for the laws enforcing their rights – has finally been proven in court.
“This decision will not bring back the 52 people killed on Massey Energy property during Blankenship’s reign as the head of that company, including the 29 killed at the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010. Their families still must live without their loved ones, holding their grief in their hearts the rest of their lives.
“But a message has gone out today to every coal operator in America who is willing to skirt mine safety and health laws: you do so at your own personal risk. I thank the jury for having the courage to send this message and establish a clear deterrent to this kind of activity. Hopefully that deterrent will keep more miners alive and intact in the years to come.”
Blankenship was found guilty of violating safety regulations at the mine in West Virginia, which led to the explosion that killed 29 workers.
It was a mixed verdict for Blankenship, who could have faced 30 years in prison had he been convicted of the more serious charges involving securities fraud and making false statements.