In 2010 we posted about the terrible safety record at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners lost their lives in an explosion.
The Massey Energy Company, under CEO Don Blankenship, routinely ignored government safety citations and the federal agency in charge of mine safety failed to act decisively.
Now in what may be a first step toward justice for the miners and their families, Blankenship has been indicted on federal charges related to the explosion.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said a federal grand jury indicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship on charges that include conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud.
Blankenship could face up to 31 years in prison if convicted.
The indictment alleges Blankenship conspired to violate mine safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine from January 2008 until April 2010, when an explosion at the mine killed 29 coal miners.
Specifically, the indictment said Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to provide advance warning of federal mine safety inspections, allowing mine bosses to conceal and cover up safety violations.