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Court Unseals Mine Disaster Documents Sought By NPR

A Circuit Court judge in West Virginia has ordered the release of more than 5,300 pages of documents that could reveal new details about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster and the just-completed merger between Massey Energy and Alpha Natural Resources.

NPR and the Charleston Gazette jointly sought release of the documents, which are part of a lawsuit by large institutional investors in Massey Energy. The documents include depositions in the case from former Massey CEO Don Blankenship and other key officials of the company who have declined to testify in the state and federal investigations of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

The Gazette's Ken Ward was in the courtroom for the hearing before Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Charles King. Ward reports that Massey lawyer Al Emch "asked that about 119 other pages of records be kept confidential, and Judge King agreed to review those documents more closely before making a ruling."

The 119 pages under review by Judge King include the deposition of Massey Chief Operating Officer Chris Adkins, some strategic planning reports and a powerpoint presentation from Arch Coal, which also made a takeover bid for Massey. Emch argued that Adkins' deposition was given contingent on secrecy. The other sensitive documents, he said, include material that could be considered proprietary.

Judge King said he would rule on those contested documents by the end of the week.

Emch also asserted that personal information should be redacted from the documents that will be unsealed. Judge King agreed to permit Massey to make those redactions before the documents are released.

It's not clear when the unsealed documents will be made public.

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