For four hours Tuesday night, investigators from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) laid out their working theory about what happened April 5, just before a West Virginia coal mine exploded and 29 miners were killed.
They went through the explosion scenario step-by-step in an MSHA auditorium in Beckley, W.Va., filled with relatives of the victims, some weeping at times at the painful implications of the evidence.
The Labor Department's first-ever use of its toughest enforcement tool has resulted in a court-supervised settlement with coal mine giant Massey Energy.
The agreement involves Massey's Freedom Mine #1 in Pike County, Ky., which is described in court documents as a mine so dangerous it requires court supervision. Freedom was singled out for an unprecedented federal court injunction owing to a persistent "pattern of violations" of mine safety law, which "constitutes a continuing hazard to the health or safety of miners."
Massey Energy is shutting down a Kentucky mine that is targeted by federal regulators for the toughest enforcement action ever, the company confirms to NPR.
The Freedom Energy Mine No. 1 in Pike County is the focus of an unprecedented federal court action in which the Labor Department is seeking to have the court seize control of the mine. Labor Department officials argue that conditions at the facility are so dangerous that a judge's intervention was required.