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Massey Energy disputes key government findings on W.Va. mine explosion

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Massey Energy Co. on Friday rejected nearly every part of the federal government's theory on what caused the deadly explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia last spring, killing 29 men.

The Richmond, Va.-based coal company doesn't believe that worn shearer bits, broken water sprayers or an excessive buildup of coal dust contributed to the blast, vice president and general counsel Shane Harvey said.

Instead, Massey continues to argue there was a sudden inundation of natural gases from a crack in the floor that overwhelmed what it insists were good air flow and other controls that should have contained the blast. Traces of gas continue to flow from that crack, Harvey said.

Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Friday that investigators found no evidence of a large methane explosion. It appears it took only "a low volume methane and/or methane from natural gas" to fuel the ignition, she said.

The agency presented preliminary findings from its continuing investigation last week, saying Massey records and evidence from inside the mine point to poor maintenance as a key cause of the blast.

The April 2010 blast was the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40 years and is the subject of both criminal and civil investigations, as well as lawsuits by some of the victims' families.

Massey Energy disputes key government findings on W.Va. mine explosion 01/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:18pm]
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