Massey is one of the largest coal mine operators in Kentucky and has had some serious safety violations in the past. The company was fined $2.5 million last year after pleading guilty to 10 criminal violations at its Aracoma Coal Co. mine in West Virginia, where two miners died in a 2006 fire.
Massey's history in Kentucky includes the slurry spill in 2000 in Martin County that resulted in $20 million fine for violating the Clean Water Act.
The company last month bought Cumberland Resources, an Abingdon, Va., company whose subsidiary, Black Mountain Resources, is based in Harlan County and runs several mines in Letcher and Harlan counties. Black Mountain officials would not answer questions Tuesday.
On its corporate Web site, Massey touted 2009 as its "all-time best" year for safety with a record low accident rate.
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In underground mines in Eastern Kentucky since January 2005, according to what's currently available on the Mine Safety and Health Administration Web site, the 12 Massey-controlled mines in Eastern Kentucky, run by at least 15 different operators over the years, have racked up 9,309 individual violations.
The fines assessed for these violations range from $55 (the smallest) to $196,700 (the largest).
The big one is from operator Rockhouse Energy Mining Co., cited in August for not following the ventilation plan at its Pike County Mine No. 1. Rockhouse was one of 15 mine operators nationwide warned by MSHA earlier in 2009 to clean up their acts or face stricter enforcement. The company is contesting the $196,700 fine.
Massey or its operators have been fined $10.2 million at their Eastern Kentucky underground mines, and the companies have paid nearly $3 million of that total.
Dori Hjalmarson and Linda J. Johnson