“One year ago today, an explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine took the lives of 29 miners in the worst mine disaster in 40 years,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for the mine safety and health. “Mine safety and health took on new meaning as we witnessed the devastation and pain of the families, friends and communities of the miners who perished in that catastrophe. The anniversary of that tragedy brings us fresh resolve to see that an accident of this magnitude never happens again.”
Although three separate investigations are being conducting, none has yet to conclude what caused the explosion. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently announced it would hold a public briefing on June 29 to release information it gathered during the accident investigation. It intends to provide an overview of the physical evidence gathered in its investigation, as well as summaries of other evidence obtained by investigators.
“We take very seriously the need to keep the public informed as to what we’re learning and when we’re learning it,” said Main. “We also take seriously the efforts of the FBI and the U.S. attorney to bring to justice those who may have broken the law. Throughout this investigation, we’ve worked hard to balance those important goals.”
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined the miners’ families, state dignitaries and the community of Whitesville to pay tribute to the UBB miners by laying a wreath at the Miner’s Statue on the State Capitol grounds. Gov. Tomblin proclaimed April 5, 2011, as a day of prayer and remembrance for the 29 men who were killed. The proclamation also included a request for statewide observances to occur starting at 3:01 p.m. in honor of the victims.
“One year ago, 29 hard working miners perished,” Gov. Tomblin said. “In their memory, I request that every church in our state ring its bell 29 times at 3:01 p.m. which is the estimated time of the deadly explosion. At that moment, I ask all West Virginians to observe a moment of silence for all miners who have perished and for those who continue to work in harm’s way.”
The mine’s owner, Massey Energy, idled production and held a safety stand down at all of its mines. The company also held a moment of silence for one minute and 29 seconds. “Massey Energy continues to extend our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathies to those families and communities who lost loved ones in this tragic accident. The company remains fully committed to a through and comprehensive investigation that seeks to identify the primary causes of the explosion and provide answers to the UBB families and the communities we serve in Central Appalachia,” a company statement said.