W.Va. mine blast benefits package unveiled

April 30, 2010 at 9:51 AM
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MONTCOAL, W.Va., April 30 (UPI) -- Survivors of the coal miners killed in a blast at a West Virginia mine will have financial security "for the rest of their lives," a company spokesman said.

Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship earlier this week announced a package that includes full income replacement, health insurance, child care and college scholarships for the wives and children of the 29 miners who were killed in an April 5 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch operation near Montcoal, W.Va., USA Today reported Friday.

Life insurance beneficiaries will receive a lump-sum insurance benefit equal to five times the worker's annual pay, which average about $69,000 a year for Massey miners, officials said.

While families' emotional burdens won't be eased, Robert Foglesong, a Massey official, said, "We can help provide them with financial security for the rest of their lives."

Massey won't require the families to settle legal claims to receive the benefits, Foglesong said, calling the package unprecedented.

Massey's offer is "way beyond what most coal companies would offer," said Tony Oppegard, a Lexington, Ky., lawyer who told USA Today he has sued coal mining companies 150 times, including five wrongful death cases during the past five years.

Mark Moreland, a lawyer representing the wife of one of the victims, characterized Massey's announcement as "pure public relations."

Massey should be clear about what it was providing survivors "over and above what they are already entitled to," Moreland said.

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