W.Va. mine owner threatened with takeover

Nov. 16, 2010 at 7:18 PM
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CHARLESTON, W.Va., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Federal regulators and Massey Energy are trading accusations over an investigation into a deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

The U.S. Labor Department accuses Massey of blocking a test of a water spray unit by refusing running water, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday. The government has threatened Massey with a "J" order, which would allow the secretary of labor, for the first time in almost 40 years, to take control of a mine under investigation.

Massey says the water would destroy evidence. It accuses the Mine Safety and Health Administration of trying to sabotage the company's investigation.

"The company has sought MSHA's cooperation, but MSHA appears reluctant to allow any investigation that may reach a conclusion different than the one MSHA reached mere days after the explosion on April 5," said Shane Harvey, Massey's vice president.

The explosion at the mine in Raleigh County in April killed 29 miners. The disaster is also being investigated by a grand jury.

Federal investigators have issued preliminary reports blaming the explosion on a combination of coal dust and methane gas. Massey says a crack appeared suddenly in the floor of the mine, releasing a burst of methane gas.

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