Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mining: Former Massey Executive Charged in Mine Safety Conspiracy

U.S. Attorney’s Office 
Southern District of West Virginia

BECKLEY, WV—U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today charged a longtime Massey Energy Company executive with two federal crimes: conspiring to impede the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and conspiring to violate mine health and safety laws. David Hughart, 53, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, the former president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group, was charged in federal district court in Beckley, West Virginia. Hughart is the highest-ranking official charged to date in an ongoing federal investigation of Massey. He has agreed to plead guilty and is cooperating with the investigation.

According to Goodwin, Hughart and others at Massey conspired to violate health and safety laws and then conceal those violations by warning mining operations when MSHA inspectors were coming. The alleged criminal conspiracies involved not just Hughart’s Green Valley group but also other Massey mines and spanned a period from 2000 through March 2010.

“Miners deserve a safe place to earn a living,” said Goodwin. “Some mine officials, unfortunately, seem to believe health and safety laws are optional. That attitude has no place in the mining industry or any industry. Today’s charges reinforce that urgent message.”

Coal mines in the United States are subject to an array of mandatory federal mine health and safety standards designed to prevent dangers such as explosions, roof collapses, and fires. MSHA conducts frequent, unannounced mine inspections to monitor compliance with those requirements. When MSHA inspectors find violations of health and safety requirements, mine owners are subject to monetary penalties and, in some cases, production shutdowns until violations are corrected.

Today’s charges arise from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. Alpha Natural Resources Inc., which acquired Massey’s operations in a June 2011 merger, is cooperating with the investigation. Counsel to the United States Attorney Steve Ruby and Senior Litigation Counsel Larry Ellis are handling the prosecution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.