In 2010 an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine owned by Massey Energy took the lives of 29 miners. Because Massey had a record of hundreds of safety violations over the years, the company’s then chief executive officer Don Blankenship has been called by Rolling Stone “the dark lord of coal country.”
Blankenship was pressured to leave in December of that year. ABC News has reported he took “$39 million in accumulated retirement benefits, plus $14.4 million in severance and perks. These included five years’ use of an office with secretary, free use of a house and land that formerly were Massey property, and reimbursement of taxes on the free house and land ($257, 111).” The company has since been taken over by Alpha Natural Resources.
Now reports have surfaced that Blankenship has incorporated a new venture in Kentucky called the McCoy Coal Group. No mining permit applications are yet reported. “Don Blankenship belongs in jail, not in a position to put yet more miners’ lives at risk,” UMWA spokesman Phil Smith told Vicki Smith of Bloomberg Business Week. “In October, the union issued a report calling Massey a rogue corporation and accusing it of ‘industrial homicide’ at the Upper Big Branch mine.”