W. Virginia Mine Burials Begin As Massey Questions Grow

The burials began in West Virginia Friday for some of the 25 coal miners known killed when an explosion occurred Monday at the Upper Big Branch mine owned by Massey Energy.

Meanwhile, rescue teams re-entered the deadly mine Friday afternoon after aborting another effort earlier in the day when the rescuers ran into dangerous air conditions in the mine which raised fears of another possible explosion.

It was likely to take several hours for the rescue teams to make their way to the location of a refuge chamber, with families and would-be rescuers holding on to the ever slimmer hope that four missing miners might still be alive there.

Upon his return from Europe, President Barack Obama made a statement from the White House Rose Garden in which he expressed his and the nation's condolences for the deaths of the miners.

Obama said:

It's a profession that's not without risks and danger, and the workers and their families know that. But their government and their employers know that they owe it to these families to do everything possible to ensure their safety when they go to work each day.

The president also read a letter from Josh Napper, one of the dead miners, to his family with a message for them to be read in the event of his death. The letter served to reinforce the president's remark that the coal mining can be a dangerous occupation.

The letter also was reminiscent of the famous Civil War letter by Maj. Sullivan Ballou.

Obama said:

Before he left for the mine on Monday, Josh wrote a letter for his girlfriend and young daughter. And in it, he said, "If anything happens to me, I'll be looking down from heaven at you all. I love you. Take care of my baby. Tell her that daddy loves her, she's beautiful, she's funny. Just take care of my baby girl."

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Massey told investors that the financial impact from the disaster to the company's bottom line should be minimal:

Following an event of this nature there is always a period of uncertainty. We are providing this communication to update you on our expectations for our operations going forward and provide you with other information.

Sales Impact

Our sales plan for the balance of 2010 was to ship approximately 1.6 million tons of metallurgical coal from the UBB mine. The average price per ton contained in our 2010 sales plan for the UBB coal was approximately $91.00.

Mitigation

We are currently working on plans to mitigate the lost production at UBB by increasing production at other mines. We have a significant amount of mining equipment available that can be deployed as well as mines where we can produce additional coal similar in quality to that of UBB. We also anticipate that because of our mitigation efforts, as well as attrition at other mine locations, we will be able to put to work the vast majority of UBB miners not working due to the accident. The mitigation plan will take some time to finalize and implement. Changes to mine plans will need to be approved by the appropriate agencies and authorities. Even with the mitigation efforts, we do not believe we can replace 100 percent of the planned UBB production for 2010.

Insurance Coverage

Coal mining is subject to inherent risks. For some of these risks we maintain third-party insurance coverage and for some we are self insured.

We self-insure our underground mining equipment, including our longwalls. At UBB we were operating a longwall and four underground miner sections. The condition of this equipment is unknown at this time, but we believe much of it will be recoverable.

We do not currently carry business interruption insurance for the UBB mine.

Massey has been battered by numerous stories since the explosion about violations Mining Safety and Health Administration inspectors found at the Upper Big Branch Mine. There was more on Friday, adding to numerous questions now being asked about the company's approach to safety.

The Associated Press reported:

MONTCOAL, W.Va. (AP) - Records show a safety inspector found that management considered production more important than safety twice at a West Virginia mine under scrutiny since an explosion killed 25 people.

In two evacuation orders in 2009, a federal inspector cited the operators of Upper Big Branch mine for skipping mandatory checks of a piece of heavy equipment.

The inspector's notes say management deemed production more important. The citation says the operator complied with the requirements later that day, Sept. 23, 2009.

The notes are included in 140 pages of documents that federal officials released Friday.

Massey Energy Co., which owns the mine, has defended its record and disputed accusations from miners that coal profits were put ahead of safety.

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