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United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts Blasts Massey Energy for Operating Its Mammoth Mine With Im

date: 
February 21, 2005

Roberts Praises State Inspectors for Shutting It Down

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts said today that news that West Virginia mine safety inspectors shut down a section of Massey Energy's Mammoth coal mine last week for being improperly ventilated was not surprising, given Massey's atrocious worker health and safety record.

"To run a mining section without the use of ventilation curtains or other proper ventilation controls is a very serious infraction that can often end up costing miners their lives," said Roberts. "Thank God these state mine inspectors acted quickly to shut down the section and get the working miners out." He added, "When this mine was operated by Horizon with a UMWA workforce, our miners had contractual protections that prevented them from having to work in these kinds of dangerous conditions. This is not the case at mines operated by Massey Energy."

Until last year, Horizon Natural Resources had owned and operated the Mammoth mine -- then named the Cannelton mine -- with a UMWA workforce. When Horizon declared bankruptcy, the Cannelton mine was purchased by Massey Energy, which said it would operate the mine non-union. To date, Massey has hired just a handful of the UMWA miners who were displaced when Horizon sold the Cannelton mine. Part of the reason Massey purchased the mine was because a federal bankruptcy judge, as part of the bankruptcy process, voided the Cannelton miners' UMWA contract and terminated all legacy costs for potential new owners, primarily the miners' promised lifetime health care benefits. In response, the UMWA erected three picket shacks outside the Mammoth mine and its cleaning plant. Displaced UMWA miners man the shacks daily to raise awareness about the injustice of what happened to them in bankruptcy court. Given Massey's poor worker health and safety and environmental record, the UMWA vowed to keep a close eye on how Massey operated its new mine, and last week's shutdown confirmed the union's worst fears.

"The UMWA has long contended that Don Blankenship and Massey Energy always put profits before people," charged Roberts. "This is the mentality that is killing coal miners by the thousands in developing nations like China, India and Ukraine. But this is the United States, where we have laws to protect coal miners from having to work in dangerous conditions like those found last week at the Cannelton mine. Don Blankenship and Massey appear to want to run their mines like Chinese mines, with little regard for the lives of miners. Well, this is America, and American mines must be run by responsible coal operators."

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