In an often scathing executive summary of the report MSHA says, “The physical conditions that led to the explosion were the result of a series of basic safety violations at UBB and were entirely preventable. PCC/Massey disregarded the resulting hazards. While violations of particular safety standards led to the conditions that caused the explosion, the unlawful policies and practices implemented by PCC/Massey were the root cause of this tragedy. The evidence accumulated during the investigation demonstrates that PCC/Massey promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety, including practices calculated to allow it to conduct mining operations in violation of the law.
“The investigation also revealed multiple examples of systematic, intentional, and aggressive efforts by PCC/Massey to avoid compliance with safety and health standards, and to thwart detection of that non-compliance by federal and state regulators.”
MSHA concluded that the miners died in a massive coal dust explosion that started as a methane ignition that began near the tailgate of the longwall shearer and that the explosions were the result of a series of basic safety violations. In the final report MSHA claims that PCC/Massey’s management practices led to the explosion and the company knew or should have known about all of these hazards but failed to take corrective action to prevent a catastrophic accident. Specifically, the accident investigation concluded the company:
• Failed to perform required mine examinations adequately and remedy known hazards and violations of law;
• Kept two sets of books, thus concealing hazardous conditions;
• Intimidated miners to prevent MSHA from receiving evidence of safety and health violations and hazards;
• Failed to provide adequate training for workers;
• Established a regular practice of giving advance notice of inspections to hide violations and hazards from enforcement personnel
The report lists the physical causes of the explosion as a small amount of methane, likely liberated from the mine floor, that accumulated in the longwall area due to poor ventilation and roof control practices. MSHA contends that PCC/Massey failed to maintain the UBB longwall shearer, creating an ignition source for accumulated methane; allowed coal dust to accumulate throughout UBB, providing a fuel source for a massive explosion; and failed to rock dust the mine adequately to prevent a coal dust explosion and its propagation through the mine.
Associated with the issuance of this accident investigation report, MSHA issued 12 citations and orders to PCC/Massey for violations of the Mine Act and its implementing regulations that contributed to the April 5, 2010 explosion. MSHA also issued 357 violations of the Mine Act and regulations to PCC/Massey for conditions and practices discovered at UBB that did not directly contribute to the explosion.
MSHA designated nine of these contributory violations as “flagrant.” Flagrant violations, the most serious violations MSHA can issue, are eligible for the highest penalty possible under the Mine Act.
The entire report is available on the single-source UBB webpage at www.msha.gov, which also includes the fatal accident report, interview transcripts, PCC record books, citations and order issued, and more.