Mining Company Previously Fined for Safety

Upper Big Branch Mine, where 25 miners were killed and 4 were unaccounted for Monday evening in West Virginia, has been previously cited for safety violations and was behind in paying penalties to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, reports CBS News investigative producer Laura Strickler.

The mine is operated by Massey Energy Company subsidiary Performance Coal Co.

Among the violations according to MSHA:

Roof Falls, which are cracking and collapsing of the mine sidewalls happened on Nov. 24, 2009, Dec.5, 2009 and Feb. 21, 2010 at Upper Big Branch mine.

The mine violated the standard for ventilation as recently as March 30, and was also cited twice on March 23 and on March 17.

There were violations for drill dust on March 25 and for air quality on March 23.

According to the MSHA, in 2010, the mine was fined $188,769 and has paid $2,676 to date.

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At least three fatalities have happened at the mine in the past dozen years.

In 1998, a worker was killed when a support beam collapsed, dumping bags of cement mix and other materials onto the man, according to a report from the MHSA. Federal investigators blamed poor welding and construction.

In 2001, another worker at the mine died after a portion of roof fell in on him, and an electrician died after being electrocuted while repairing a shuttle car there in 2003.

Massey Energy is a publicly traded company based in Richmond, Va., that has 2.2 billion tons.

Massey Energy Company is no stranger to controversy, reports CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford. It was at the center of a major Supreme Court case in 2008, after its CEO Don Blankenship was sued and then accused of buying a friendly seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state supreme court justice Brent Benjamin should have recused himself from an appeal of a $50 million jury verdict against Massey, because Blankenship spent $3 million to get him elected to the state court, Crawford reports.
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