(By Dennis B. Roddy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Federal mine safety officials are threatening to seize the explosion-damaged Upper Big Branch coal mine, saying the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, is impeding their investigation.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said both state and federal investigators complain that Massey officials have impeded the investigation. A Massey spokesman did not immediately return calls.
Both West Virginia and federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials said the company has refused to cooperate in testing on the mine’s long wall cutting machine. Accident investigators want to push water through the machine’s dust suppressing spray system to see if it functions properly and had sufficient water pressure. The sprayers are designed to reduce explosive dust created when the machine shears the coal face.
Massey officials have insisted that they are not finished with their own internal investigation into the probe and that applying water to the machine would taint evidence.
The standoff developed late last week and MSHA gave the company until the end of today to comply or the government would seek sanctions.
A seizure order would give MSHA total control of the mine.
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