Mine CEO Doesn't Rule out Violations as Cause

Massey CEO Don Blankenship, shown during an interview with CBS News anchor Harry Smith.
Don Blankenship, the chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, which owns the Upper Big Branch mine, joined CBS News anchor Harry Smith for an interview in Montcoal, W.V., where 25 people have been killed and four miners are still missing.

Smith: It's pretty well known now in the last 24 hours your company has been cited numerous times for ventilation violations. Could it be that just that kind of violation may be at root of the explosion that took place here yesterday?

Blankenship: Well, I think it's possible that anything could be the source of the fire or the explosion, I should say, at this point. But we don't know.

Smith: There is a sense among some in this community that your company has not done enough to keep the mines as safe as they ought to be.

Blankenship: Well, I've done everything I know to do and we've worked hard with the federal agencies and the state agencies to make all our of mines safe and we run a-hundred-and-something coal mines and we typically have a safe or better performance than the rest of the industry - 18 of the last 20 years we've had a better safety performance than the rest of the industry.

Smith: What do you owe to the families of the miners who died here yesterday?

Blankenship: Well, I don't know how to answer that because I don't think there's any way to compensate people for this type of tragedy. But we'll certainly be working with the family members to do whatever's appropriate.

Smith: You spoken with any of them yesterday?

Blankenship: I visited the family communications every two hours about fly times and I've been there. I have not said a lot because they're most interested in the rescue effort and the electricians, engineers, geologists, surveyors - they know far more about that than I do so I've left most of them to them.

Smith: You have many other mines that are operating even as we speak. I would go back to what do you owe all those men and women who risk their lives every day to dig the coal out of this earth?

Blankenship: Well, we owe them everything we can do to keep them safe and we've been doing that for years. We've cut the accident rate at Massey probably about 90 percent over the time that I've been president and ... our goal is zero. This year we were doing really well until this and we're sorry about it and as distressed about it as others are. I think it's important to keep in mind that the supervisor of these mines are the friends of these guys and the survivors are distraught as well and it's an emotional issue for all of them.

More on the mine explosion:

Photos: W. Va. Mine Explosion
Coal Mine Blast Leaves 25 Dead, 4 Missing
W. Va. Coal Mine Blast: The Victims
List Of Recent Fatal U.S. Mine Disasters
In Coal Mines, Risk of Death Is Part of Life
Mines not Paying Fines a Familiar Story
Obama Offers "Deepest Condolences"
Gov.: "No Excuse" for Mine Safety Flaws
Eerie Statement from Miner Killed in Blast
Mining Company Previously Fined for Safety
Mine Explosion Rescue Efforts