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Mining company pays $209M over deaths of W.Va. miners in 2010 explosion


WASHINGTON—A $209 million settlement announced Tuesday over the 2010 deaths of 29 miners represents one of the one of the largest payments ever for a workplace safety crime, federal prosecutors said.

The coal miners' deaths and the injuries of two other workers were a result of the April 5, 2010, explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

Massey Energy Co. owned the mine at the time. But Abingdon, W.Va.-based Alpha Natural Resources Inc. since has acquired Massey mines. As part of its “nonprosecution agreement,” Alpha will invest at least $80 million in mine safety improvements at all of its underground mines, including those formerly owned by Massey.

The company will pay $1.5 million in criminal restitution to each of the 29 miners and the two injured workers, and it will pay up to $34.8 million in penalties to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Alpha also will place $48 million in a health and safety research trust.

“The tragedy at Upper Big Branch will never be forgotten, and the families affected by it will never be made completely whole again,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “Today’s agreement represents the largest-ever resolution in a criminal investigation of a mine disaster and will ensure appropriate steps are taken to improve mine safety now and will fund research to enhance mine safety in the future. While we continue to investigate individuals associated with this tragedy, this historic agreement—one of the largest payments ever for workplace safety crimes of any type—will help to create safer work environments for miners in West Virginia and across the country.”

The agreement addresses only Massey’s corporate criminal liability and not potential criminal charges against individuals. The criminal investigation of individuals associated with Massey is ongoing.

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