Massey Shuts Kentucky Mine; Cites Danger in West Virginia

Massey Energy Co. has shut down a Kentucky coal mine that federal regulators had cited for safety violations and said another of its mines in West Virginia was in danger of collapse following heavy rains.

The mining company said that it had idled production at the Freedom Energy Mine No. 1 in Pike County, Kentucky, but that it still believed the mine was safe despite the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) notification that the site had a pattern of rules violations.

The decrease in total production resulting from this mine closure was included in the company’s forecast for 2011 that was issued in October.

Last month, MSHA went to court to force Massey to address the 81 serious safety violations issued to the mine over a two-year period.

Massey later revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that MSHA issued an “imminent danger” order for its Camp Branch mine in Logan county, West Virginia.

The order said the surface mining operation had received more than two inches of rain, causing a vertical bank to be in danger of falling onto mobile equipment and operators of the equipment.

Massey said it was evaluating the condition cited in the order and considering potential abatement action, the filing said. No injuries occurred, it said.

Massey has been under scrutiny since an April explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners. The company has said it is weighing strategic options, sparking market talk that one of its peers may seek to buy it.

(Reporting by Matt Daily and Steve James; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Phil Berlowitz)