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$200 million settlement following mine explosion

08 December 2011

A record $210 million in penalties over what the government called an "entirely preventable" tragedy caused by the pursuit of profits ahead of safety has been agreed to be paid by the new owners of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 men were killed in an explosion.

Upper Big branch mine
Upper Big branch mine

This is the largest fine ever reached by the US for a mining disaster.

The new owners, Alpha Natural Resources who bought the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia from Massey Energy in 2011 will not be charged with any crimes as long as the company complies to the agreement. The incident occurred in April 2010. 

However, according to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin ‘’The agreement does not prevent individual employees from being prosecuted.’’

"No individuals are off the hook," Goodwin said, adding that federal prosecutors are still investigating.

Hours after the settlement was announced, federal regulators released a final report detailing 369 safety violations at the mine, including 12 that it said contributed to the blast. Fines related to those violations account for $10.8 million of the settlement, and the company is required to pay further fines for violations dating back several years.

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