Massey Energy Statement on Previous Methane Outbursts

MSHA Previously Recommended More Air on Longwall

Jun 15, 2010, 16:17 ET from Massey Energy Company

JULIAN, W.Va., June 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Massey Energy Company (NYSE: MEE) today disclosed a July 15, 2004 report by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regarding two previous methane outbursts at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine.  Importantly, the report contained recommendations inconsistent with MSHA's recent handling of ventilation at UBB.

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In the July 15, 2004 report, MSHA personnel internally discussed prior methane outbursts at UBB in July 2003 and February 2004 that occurred when cracks in the mine floor allowed methane to escape into the mine.  MSHA personnel recommended that a number of steps be considered to address the potential for future outbursts.  The primary recommendation was for increased airflow to dilute the methane at the longwall face and in the gob behind the longwall.  

Contrary to the recommendation, MSHA in 2009 and 2010 mandated changes resulting in less air on the UBB longwall.  Last week, Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship wrote a letter to governors in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Illinois pointing out that MSHA had – over the company's objection – required decreased airflow at UBB prior to the April 5, 2010 explosion.  

Recently, Massey has received a number of questions about the discovery of a crack in the mine floor at UBB.  Massey can confirm that the underground teams exploring the longwall at UBB last week did observe a crack in the floor near the tail of the longwall.  The teams were not able to explore the crack to determine if it was the source of a methane explosion.  The crack and other potential sources in the mine need to be fully examined before any conclusions can be reached.  

"The July 15, 2004 report is very important," said Blankenship.  "MSHA recognized in 2004 that more airflow was necessary to address methane outbursts, should they occur.   However, in 2009 and 2010, MSHA required UBB to adopt a ventilation system that resulted in less air.  It is too early to determine what role these changes played or to determine the importance of the crack in the mine floor.  However, this will be a focal point of our investigation and, we hope, the state and federal investigations."

Handwritten notations on the front of the report indicate that the report was anonymously placed under the door of MSHA District Manager Bob Hardman on May 21, 2010.  Subsequently, an MSHA investigation team member, Stephen Gigliotti, was dismissed from the team because he was involved in the 2004 investigation by MSHA.  Massey Energy continues to maintain that a wholly independent investigation of the explosion is in order because of MSHA's role in the ventilation system at UBB.

A copy of the July 15, 2004 report by MSHA will be posted on the Company's UBB website at  

Massey Energy Company, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, with operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, is the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia and is included in the S&P 500 Index.

SOURCE Massey Energy Company