Montcoal West Virginia mine explosion | Massey Energy questioned

Checking methane levels in a coal mine

Methane gas is a constant concern in coal mines. Image from Flickr.

Tuesday morning, the search for survivors in the Montcoal, West Virginia mine explosion was called off. Mine owner Massey Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal producers, and Massey Energy had been repeatedly cited for safety violations at the site of the Montcoal, WV mine explosion. The small town of Montcoal, WV relies mostly on the coal mine and Massey Energy. Montcoal houses basically the mine, a grocery store, a payday loan store and many homes. At the time the coal mine explosion search for survivors was called off, there were still 4 missing miners and 25 confirmed dead.

Montcoal, WV coal mine explosion

The coal mine explosion in Montcoal, West Virginia, occurred at 3 p.m. local time in Raleigh County, WV. The explosion, most likely set off by vented methane gas, knocked out wired and wireless communications. The search for survivors of the Montcoal, WV, coal mine explosion included specially trained mine disaster dogs. One U.S. Department of Labor mine safety administrator has stated that he believes at least seven of the miners were killed while “riding out of the mine on a vehicle.” Roof collapse is not currently suspected in the Montcoal coal mine explosion. Instead, poisonous and combustible methane gas is suspected to have caused the West Virginia coal mine explosion.

Miners trapped in the Montcoal WV mine explosion

At the time of the coal mine explosion, there was hope that the miners that had been in the shaft might have been able to reach emergency chambers. Reinforced and stocked with food, water and air, these emergency chambers can support several miners for several days. Like payday loans, however, these chambers are only helpful if the miners were actually able to reach them. However, it appears that the coal mine explosion may have killed all 29 or 30 individuals that were in the coal mine at the time.

Massey Energy previously cited for coal mine safety violations

The exact cause of the mine explosion in Montcoal is not yet known. However, Massey Energy has been cited for dangerous conditions multiple times. Since Feb. 21, Massey Energy has received citations regarding the Montcoal coal mine six times. In the last year, Massey Energy has paid more than $380,000 in fines for “repeated serious violations” of safety at the Montcoal, WV coal mine.

Montcoal, WV to receive federal aid

President Obama has offered federal assistance to the coal mine explosion rescue effort. The Red Cross is also trying to get mental health services to the “very rural” area. Local churches and civic groups are also providing food and other support services to the Montcoal, WV, community. Massey Energy has confirmed seven of the 25 deaths from the coal mine explosion. The C.E.O. of Massey Energy also released a statement saying “Our top priority is the safety of our miners and the well-being of their families.”


LA Times
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