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President Roberts' statement on anniversary of Upper Big Branch disaster

April 4, 2011
For immediate release?: 

[TRIANGLE, VA] United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“One year ago today, 29 miners were alive and well in southern West Virginia. They had a meal with their family, gave a loved one a kiss, shared a laugh with a friend. Today they are gone, ripped from the arms of their families by a disaster that did not have to happen.

“It has now been a year since the terrible events at the Upper Big Branch mine occurred, and we still do not have a definitive answer as to exactly what happened nor exactly who was responsible.

“But there are things we do know. We do know that the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, operated the Upper Big Branch and other mines with an attitude bordering on contempt for mine safety and health laws and regulations. We do know that the mine’s head of security has been indicted for lying to investigators and trying to destroy evidence.

“We do know that even after this tragedy, several other companies continue to operate their mines on the edge of disaster, as repeated surprise inspections by federal and state agencies demonstrate.

“And we know that despite the worst mining disaster in 40 years and the most coal mine fatalities in any one year since 1992, Congress has done absolutely nothing. As our dear departed friend Sen. Robert C. Byrd would say: Shame!

“When the people’s representatives are more concerned about fattening corporate profit margins than they are about keeping workers alive, they have crossed a dangerous line and we must hold them accountable.

“Let us hope that those in Congress who are standing in the way of safer, healthier mines will come to recognize their responsibility and act in the best interests of miners, their families and their communities. For well more than a century, the coal companies have convincingly demonstrated that they can take care of themselves. It’s the miners who need help.”

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