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Coal Executive Could Face Thirty Years in Prison
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Don Blankenship

Summary: The courts are finally placing executives responsible for coal mine blasts with the case against Massey Energy chief as the first one.

The federal jury for the trial of Massey Energy chief is stuck at a deadlock. They have been deliberating for two weeks but have not been able to reach an agreement. Don Blankenship was charged a year ago for three counts of “conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators.”


This disregard of hundreds of safety guidelines led to the 2010 mine blast in the West Virginia Upper Big Branch Mine that left 29 dead. If Blankenship is found guilty by the federal jury, he could face thirty years in prison.

This is the first time a coal executive has been personally charged for the mismanagement of a mine, showing a shift in corporate accountability beliefs. The mining industry has already taken some steps to further improve safety, but a guilty verdict would greatly change things since no executive would want to find themselves in the same place as Blankenship.

Blankenship was serving as the chairman and chief executive officer of Massey during the time of the explosion. His statement then read, “Our top priority is the safety of our miners and the well-being of their families.” Yet the investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration determined that he “promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety, including practices calculated to allow it to conduct mining operations in violation of the law.”

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The defense tried to argue for a mistrial, but US District Judge Irene Berger directed the jury to continue and “return a partial verdict on the charges” if needed.




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