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Alpha Upper Big Branch Settlement 'a mixed bag,' UMWA's Roberts says

December 6, 2011
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(CHARLESTON, W.VA.)--United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today regarding Alpha Natural Resources' settlement arising from the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

"The terms reported today of the government's settlement with Alpha Natural Resources of some civil and criminal charges arising out of the 2010 Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine disaster represent a mixed bag.

"On the one hand, we understand that Alpha will invest in new safety equipment to be installed in all its mines, and must report its ongoing compliance with the U.S. Attorney, which should serve to improve the health and safety of all its coal miners going forward. That's an important step, provided this reporting duty has some real teeth so that corporate leaders are personally held accountable in a way that hasn't happened before. I must say that we are very disappointed that the settlement apparently includes a "non-prosecution" clause, which means that neither Massey nor Alpha admit to any criminal wrongdoing, and U.S. Attorney has agreed not to pursue criminal charges against them.

"Since the government is stressing that it is not waiving its right to pursue any individuals who worked for Performance Coal or Massey, we remain hopeful that responsibility will be placed where it belongs; on upper level management at Massey who created the safety-last culture at that company. We firmly believe the evidence is there for such criminal prosecution.

"Until someone goes to jail, there will be no justice done here.

"We are glad to see that the families of those killed will receive a monetary payment to help with their ongoing financial burdens, regardless of any private litigation they may bring. It is also good that Alpha has agreed to address many of the citations of the former Massey operations.

"Of course, until we see the details of the actual settlement agreement, we are reserving final judgment. If the settlement resolves many issues while still leaving the door open for individual criminal prosecutions, there may yet be true justice for the families affected by this horrible tragedy."

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