Blankenship , Energy CEO, Jailed In Fatal 2010 Mine Accident


Per Business Insurance

“Former Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners in 2010.

“Mr. Blankenship was acquitted of all felony charges, but convicted of a misdemeanor conspiracy charge in December for willfully violating U.S. mine health and safety standards and received the maximum sentence and fine applicable under his conviction, according to news releases.

“This sentence is a victory for workers and workplace safety,” Acting United States Attorney Carol Casto for the Southern District of West Virginia said in a statement. “It lets companies and their executives know that you can’t take chances with the lives of coal miners and get away with it. Putting the former chief executive officer of a major corporation in prison sends a message that violating mine safety laws is a serious crime, and those who break those laws will be held accountable.”


Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial

Upper Big Branch Lost Worker Memorial

During the trial, more than two dozen witnesses, including coal miners who worked at Upper Big Branch, testified about unsafe working conditions at the mine, violations of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations and organized efforts to obstruct and interfere with MSHA inspectors, according to the government’s release.

Mr. Blankenship’s motion to stay his sentence pending appeal was denied by the judge, who ruled he will self-report once the Bureau of Prisons determines where he will serve his sentence, according to a government spokesperson.

An attorney for Mr. Blankenship could not be immediately reached for comment.”

Don Blankenship

Massey Energy Company Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 20, 2010, before the Senate Health and Human Services subcommittee hearing on mine safety. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Criminal charges for homicide  against Samarco Execs, including their former President, and one consultant VOGBR,  have also been made but not yet heard. Heruculano Mine partners were recently indicted for murder for deaths in the 2014 tailings dam failure.

In a recent industry update the Insurance Information Institute reported

  1. Mining accounted for 7 of 147 man made disasters known to insurers in 2014( 5%)
  2. The 7 manmade* mining disasters in 2014 known to insurer resulted in 400 death but involved an insured loss amount of only $100 million indicating not the consequence of of loss but the very low presence of insurance and risk management outside of Property ($625 billion in insured assets) Business Interruption and Political Risk.

(*”manmade disaster” means arising from human activity and includes causes other than those originating from the insured miner’s operations)

In their 2016 Mining Market Outllook report global brokerage house Marsh & McClennan provides extensive stats and analysis showing that as risks have grown and the value of insured assets has grown, more and more insurers have reduced limits of coverage ( ie bought less coverage even though for property at least limits are generous and cheap.

In the worlds most costly and damaging mine failures, the Marsh report notes the  values the total damages was extremely low.   They made specific note of both Mt. Polley and Samarco..  Even for all those Tailings facilities rated “Extreme Hazard”,usually meaning that human settlements would be completely lost as happened at Samarco, permitting regulations and statutes rarely require adequate third party liability limits.

The government has assessed damages against Samarco of $(us)5.2 billion.  Samarco self reported that they had only about $600 million available for compensation from insurance almost all of that for their own proper  ty damages and their Business Interruption.  Under applicable liability applies and the settlement agreement, which flows the dictates f law, does not limit liability to that amount but sets minimums for each year to serve as benchmarks for minimum compliance ( falling below these minimums would consitute non compliance and subject Samarco, Vale & BHP to very costly daily penalties)  and further action under environmental crimes law.

The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster occurred on April 5, 2010 roughly 1,000 feet (300 m) underground in Raleigh County, West Virginia at Massey Energy‘s Upper Big Branch coal mine located in Montcoal. Twenty-nine out of thirty-one miners at the site were killed.[1] The coal dust explosion occurred at 3:27 pm.[2] The accident was the worst in the United States since 1970, when 38 miners were killed at Finley Coal Company‘s No. 15 and 16 mines in Hyden, Kentucky.[3][4][5] A state funded independent investigation would later find Massey Energy directly responsible for the blast.[6]

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its final report on December 6, 2011, concluding that flagrant safety violations contributed to the explosion. It issued 369 citations at that time, assessing $10.8 million in penalties.[7] Alpha Natural Resources, which had bought Massey Energy in 2011, settled its corporate criminal liabilities with the U.S. Attorney for $209 million.[8] Investigation of possible personal criminal liability continues,[8] with one former superintendent, Gary May, pleading guilty in March 2012, and “confess[ing] to conspiring to ‘impede the [MSHA]’s enforcement efforts'”. The CEO of Massey Energy at the time of the disaster, Don Blankenship, was convicted in 2015 of conspiring to willfully violate safety standards. He was found not guilty of charges of securities fraud and making false statements.[9]

In April 2012, Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (ANR) (the then current owner) said it will permanently close its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.[10

Wikipedia Summary


About lindsaynewlandbowker

Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, is an independent non profit providing self initiated pro bono analysis on key issues with a potential for massive adverse environmental impact . Bowker Associates has been an internationally recognized and cited voice in analysis of the Samarco failure, its consequence, and the possibilties for recovery. In 2017 we partnered with Daveid M. Chambers, a world leader in responsible mining, in our third joint work on the economics of tailings failures. Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. In the Dark Shadow of the Supercycle Tailings Failure Risk & Public Liability Reach All Time Highs. Environments 2017, 4, 75. A peer reviewed journal published investigation of the cowboy economics of the supercycle and the resulting escalation on the number and magnitude of catastrophic failures. In 2016 we parnered with Dave Chambers in our 2nd joint work together looking at root causes of failures at a conference . Bowker, L.N.; Chambers, D.M. Root Causes of Tailings Management Failures: The Severity of Consequence of Failures Attributed to Overtopping 1915–2015. In Proceedings of the Protections 2016, Fort Collins, CO, USA, 14 June 2016. [Google Scholar] In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with geophysicist David M. Chambers to recompile global authoritative accounts of significant TSF failures in recorded history and to analyze these data in the context of global mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) The third annual update of this globally referenced and used compilation was just released at Researchgate. ( In 2014 Bowker Associates commissioned globally respected geophysicist and hydrogeologist Dr. David Chambers to undertake two technical works: (1) development of technical go no go criteria for vetting mine applications tp:// and (2) a case study of Maine's Bald Mountain, an un mined low grade high risk VMS deposit demonstrating the efficacy and accuracy of two risk assessment tools in vetting mine proposals In Maine, Bowker Associates has deeply engaged and been a public voice in the Searsport DCP LPG Tank, The Cianbro proposal for a Private East West Toll Road, JD Irvings rolling pipeline of Bakken crude to its plant in St. John and review of Phase II plans at The Callahan Superfund site in Brooksville, Maine, and Maine's revisitation of mining in statute and regulation... Our only “client”: is always “the pubic interest”. Our model is to focus on only one or two issues at a time so that we have a substantive command of the relevant field as our foundation for ongoing engagement. Our core work is in envirommental risk management, science and technology as well as bringing any available “best practices” models to the fore. The legal and regulatory history/best models are also a major thrust of our work in building and evaluating public policy. Director/Principal Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM is a recognized expert in Environmental Risk Management., Heavy Construction Risk Management and Marine and Transit Risks and has more than 3 decades of engagement in buiding public policy. Appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to New York State Banking Board (served 1986-1996); President New York Chapter Chartered Property and Casualty Insurers; Environmental Committee, Risk and Insurance Management Society; Director, Convenor/Co-Chair Bermuda Market Briefing "From Captive to Cats" Hamilton Bermuda. Published Articles of Significance The Risk Economics and Public Liability of Tailings Facility Failures, co-authored with David M. Chambers, July 2015 Beyond. Polarization: Superfund Reform in Perspective, Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control (Jan. 24, 1997). Lead Hazards and Abatement Technologies in Construction: A Risk Management Approach CPCU Journal 1997 Employee Leasing: Liability in Limbo Risk Management June 1 1997 Environmental Audit Privilege and the Public interest Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control, April 1997 Asbestos:Holes In Abatement Policies Need To Be Plugged, Lloyd’s Environmental Risk International, May 1993 Editor Published Letters Evironmental Risk Management Beware of Facile Policies Like Fetal Protection Business Insurance 1995(?) High Court Review May Increase Sale of Bank Annuities Business Insurances August 8, 1995 Professional Profiles Protecting the Big Apple’s Core Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Control December 1996 Major Career Highlights First rigorous analysis showing Relationship Between declining ore grades and TSF Failures of increasing consequence ( July 2015) FIrst Documentation that Gentrification Has Same Impacts as Unassisted Displacement from Urban Renewal Sites Direted Court Ordered EIS of FHA Mortgage Scandal Created Nation's First Homeownership Program for Low Income People (SHIP) Created Earliest Geographic Information Systems Using Defense Technology Developed By IBM Designed and Conducted Parallel Census Count to Show Systematic undercount in minority neighborhoods Documented Bias in ISO Territory Rating Plans for Private Passenger Auto Insurance Using ISO's own Rating Techniques Demonstrated Inherent Bias in Mortgage Policies of Banks With Inner City Branches Demonstrated that NY Telephones Plan for Area Code Split To accommodate anticipated cell phone demand was not efficient and would exhaust in 5 years ( which it did) Undertook First Systematic Evaluation of Child Protective Services Caseload Using Multi Variate Analyic Techniques Developed Child Protective Caseload Management and Tracking System (CANTS) and directed implementation in 4 client states including Illinois, Florida and New York Created and Ran Office of Risk Management for NYC DEP the Nations largest Water & Sewer Authority . Designed, Created and Administered Nation's First Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)for High Risk Tunneling Education Masters NYU Graduate School of Public Administration BSC New School For Social Research Maine Public Schools Deering High School
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One Response to Blankenship , Energy CEO, Jailed In Fatal 2010 Mine Accident

  1. … ” Massey Energy Co. CEO Don Blankenship was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners in 2010. ” …

    A prison sentence of 12.6 days per person that died is the real crime with $685 per day going to the government in fines, undoubtedly to go toward court costs with any remaining sum going to compensate in part the prison system for a luxury visit to a non-violent offenders facility. The lives of these people are only worth 12.6 days & $8620.69 to our judicial system. Their lives were probably worth more than that in profits to the company.

    Hopefully the families have filed suit for perpetual income compensations including all other benefits in perpetuity against other actors in this tragic event driven by profit for their self serving motives.

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