Ex-Massey Energy exec charged in mine investigation; set to plead guilty
Washington (Platts)--28Nov2012/249 pm EST/1949 GMT
The former president of a division of Massey Energy was charged
Wednesday with conspiring to impede federal mine inspectors and violating
safety laws in connection with an ongoing federal investigation started
after 29 miners were killed in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch facility.
Between 2000 and 2010, David Hughart, the former president of Massey's
Green Valley Resource Group, allegedly conspired with others to violate
health and safety laws and then concealed those violations by warning staff
at mines when US Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors would be
visiting, Booth Goodwin, the US Attorney for the Southern District of West
The Green Valley Resource Group controlled the wholly owned Massey
subsidiary White Buck Mines, which operated the White Buck #2 mine, Grassy
Creek #1 mine and -- beginning in 2008 -- the Hominy Creek mine, all in
Nicholas County, West Virginia, according to a filing with the US District
Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Beckley.
Goodwin said in the statement the alleged conspiracies happened at the
Green Valley Resource Group controlled mines as well as other Massey mines.
"Miners deserve a safe place to earn a living," Goodwin said. "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."
The charges stem from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General and the
Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division.
The investigation into Massey began following the April 2010 underground
explosion at the Upper Big Branch facility in Montcoal, West Virginia, Melvin
Smith, a spokesman for the US Attorney's office said in an email Wednesday.
The explosion was the deadliest mining accident in more than 40 years.
Goodwin said Hughart has agreed to plead guilty and is cooperating with
the investigation. Hughart faces up to six years in prison, Smith said
Alpha Natural Resources, which acquired Massey in June 2011 and
permanently closed the Upper Big Branch mine earlier in 2012, is cooperating
with the investigation, Goodwin said.
The company reached a non-prosecution agreement with the Department of
Justice at the end of 2011. The $209 million agreement addressed the
corporate criminal liability of Massey, but does not prevent the prosecution
The US Attorney's Office has already brought charges against three
other ex-Massey employees as part of the investigation.
Hughie Elbert Stover, a security chief at Upper Big Branch, was
convicted in October 2011 on two counts of making false statements to federal
agents and obstructing a federal investigation into the explosion. Stover is
in the process of appealing his conviction, which led to a 36-month prison
sentence and a $20,000 fine.
In a separate case, Thomas Harrah reached a plea agreement with the US
Attorney in 2011 and received a 10-month prison sentence. Between January
2008 and August 2009, Harrah allegedly performed foreman's duties at Upper
Big Branch mine, including signing pre-shift and on-shift examination
reports, even though he was not qualified to do so.
In March, Gary May, an Upper Big Branch superintendent, plead guilty to
conspiring to impeding MSHA's enforcement prior to the blast and is
cooperating with the investigation.
Smith said no hearing has been set yet for Hughart's case and the
investigation is ongoing.
--Beth Ward, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, email@example.com