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A W.Va. trooper standing near an entrance to the Upper Big Branch mine in April after an explosion at the Massey Energy's mine that killed 29 miners and injured two.
A W.Va. trooper standing near an entrance to the Upper Big Branch mine in April after an explosion at the Massey Energy's mine that killed 29 miners and injured two. (Katherine Frey)

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Massey warns of loss after mine disaster

Massey Energy of Richmond warned investors to brace for another quarterly loss, citing tougher enforcement by federal regulators following the deadly explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch mine.

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Massey said it expects to ship 39 million tons of coal at an average of $71 a ton this year. That's at the low end of estimates provided in late July. Costs are expected to average $60 a ton - the high end of estimates.

The company blamed its problems on stricter enforcement by the Mine Safety and Health Administration following the April 5 explosion, which killed 29 miners and injured two. The blast was the deadliest in a U.S. coal mine since 1970 and is the subject of criminal and civil investigations.

"Our operations have continued to struggle since April," Massey Chief Executive Don Blankenship said in a statement. "Increasingly stringent enforcement actions by MSHA across our operations and throughout the Central Appalachian region have resulted in lost shifts and loss of productivity."

Massey also has been unable to produce coal at its Revolution mine in West Virginia since June. The company said it has been waiting for MSHA to approve a new ventilation plan.

Revolution uses a highly productive longwall mining machine - the same type of equipment used at Upper Big Branch - to produce about 1.3 million tons of higher-priced metallurgical coal used to make steel.

- Associated Press

Consol settles case on pollution charges

Coal and natural gas producer Consol Energy has agreed to strengthen pollution controls at a southern West Virginia surface mine to settle an environmental lawsuit, the Sierra Club said.

The agreement calls for Consol's Powellton Coal subsidiary to cut discharges of aluminum, iron and other pollutants into tributaries of the Gauley River from the Bridge Fork mining complex in Fayette County. The deal also calls for a $1.2 million donation to West Virginia University College of Law and $134,000 in federal fines, among other things.

"It's about time Powellton faced up to its responsibility to clean up its own mess," Sierra Club spokesman Jim Sconyers said in a statement.

The Gauley is a popular river among whitewater rafters.

"This is a great victory not only for the streams that we depend on, but also for the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the New River National River," said Beverly Walkup, secretary of the Ansted Historic Preservation Council, which brought the lawsuit with the Sierra Club in 2008.

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