Report: Massey Mine Had 2 Sets of Records

The owners of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men died in a blast last year kept two sets of safety records, one that it concealed from federal safety officials, National Public Radio reported Wednesday.

The government-subsidized radio network said investigators of the Mine Safety and Health Administration disclosed the information Tuesday night to families of the victims of the April 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion.

MSHA was holding a press briefing Wednesday on its investigation, and the final report of the accident is due later this year. A spokeswoman had no comment om the report.

Massey Energy, which owned the mine at the time of the accident, was recently acquired by Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha had no immediate comment to Reuters but a spokesman told NPR the company would have no comment on any new information until after Wednesday’s briefing.

According to NPR, families were told that Massey kept two sets of records on safety problems.

One internal set of production reports detailed those problems and how they delayed coal production. But the other records, which are reviewed by MSHA and required by federal law, failed to mention the same safety hazards, NPR said.

Portions of the Upper Big Branch mine hit by the explosion were not treated for excessive and explosive coal dust because the entryways or tunnels in those areas were too small to accommodate the machine used to spray the material that neutralizes coal dust, the report said.

Gas readings taken shortly after the explosion showed too little methane to support Massey’s claim that a naturally occurring and unpredictable inundation of gas caused the disaster, the radio said.

The details came from a private briefing in Beckley, West Virginia, for the families of the 29 mine workers killed in the disaster. Six participants provided those details to NPR.

Shares of Alpha were up 0.9 percent at $45 in trading before the market opened.

(Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)