Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster Memorial in Whitesville, W.Va. | UBB Memorial Facebook
Carolyn Diana Davis has been waiting almost a decade for justice after her husband died in the Upper Big Branch explosion. How long will other families have to wait for mining companies to be held accountable for not keeping their workers safe?
Davis, a widow of one of the miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, won a $550,000 settlement last week. As big as the sum was, it was a small token in addressing the betrayal represented by the 2010 catastrophe.
U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger approved the wrongful death settlement last Thursday in a case brought by Davis. Her suit said the federal government did not do its job in preventing the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, which killed 29 people, including her husband, Charles Timothy Davis.
The lawsuit, according to a Charleston Gazette-Mail story, said the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration didn’t “exercise reasonable care” and breached its responsibility to Charles Timothy Davis by “failing to inspect and/or report numerous blatant, fundamental and grave violations of generally accepted coal mine safety standards.”
Don Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO, spent only a year in federal prison for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.
These facts constitute a betrayal of the miners whose lives are on the line when they undertake their work, dependent as they are upon the integrity of the operation and thorough oversight of mines.
Whatever the future holds for West Virginia mining — and it certainly looks like a fading industry in the face of cheaper energy sources and climate change concerns — mining families claim a proud and fierce legacy in the state’s history.
This settlement is a warning shot across the bow of the federal government and mine owners to do their job. It’s time to do right by the mining families of West Virginia.
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PHOTO: Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster Memorial in Whitesville, W.Va. | UBB Memorial Facebook
VIDEO: As a reminder of the human toll of mining disaster, here is a Charleston Gazette-Mail video homage to the 29 miners lost in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster.