Rescue workers continued the extremely risky job early today of removing explosive methane gas from the Upper Big Branch Mine coal mine in West Virginia where at least 25 miners died two days ago; four miners are still missing.

Massey Energy Company, owner of the mine, confirmed 25 fatalities resulting from a massive, violent explosion. Additionally, the company said two miners were transported earlier to hospitals.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Performance Coal Company, which operates the Upper Big Branch Mine-South mine for Massey, was hit with 458 citations totaling $897,350 in penalties in 2009. In 2010, MSHA has issued 117 citations against the mine operator, with penalties totaling $188,769.

On the Massey web site, the company states “Safety is the top priority for every Massey member. No coal company can succeed over the long term without a total commitment to safety…”

Massey said one of the safety challenges it faces is “eliminating fatalities and major accidents at all mines.”

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has been on site of the mining accident. He has been briefing miner family members regularly as information is available, and conducting media interviews at Marsh Fork Elementary School following those meetings.

Gov. Manchin has spoken with President Obama and Vice President Biden and they have offered their assistance. A representative from the office of U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis also is on site.

Massey Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship also is on site at the Upper Big Branch mine. Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Adkins and Vice President of Safety & Health, Elizabeth Chamberlin are coordinating Massey's search and rescue efforts with state and federal officials.

Massey Energy Company, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, with operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, is the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia and is included in the S&P 500 Index. Massey produces, processes, and sells bituminous coal of steam and metallurgical grades, primarily of low sulfur content, through its 22 processing and shipping centers, called "resource groups," many of which receive coal from multiple coal mines. Massey currently operates 35 underground mines and 12 surface mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, according to the company’s web site.

In 2009, Massey announced plans to aggressively expand its operations in Central Appalachia. Several new mines are scheduled to be opened and existing mines are being expanded through projects beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2009. Total coal production is planned to increase from approximately 40 million tons in 2007 to approximately 50 million tons in 2010.