Investors Want Blankenship Fired: Mining Disaster ‘Tragic Consequence’ of His Disdain for Worker Safety
April 13, 2010
(ChattahBox)—A large investment group of Massey Energy, owner of the W.V. Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 miners lost their lives in a blast, sent a scathing letter to the company’s board of directors demanding the resignation of CEO Don Blankenship. The universally disliked union-busting CEO, has made no secret of his disdain for governmental safety regulations in the coal mining business, calling safety laws “as silly as global warming.” And in a now infamous memo to workers, Blankenship urged miners to disregard safety precautions, to focus on production. “Ignore them and run coal,” wrote Blankenship. The CtW Investment Group blames the loss of lives at the Upper Big Branch on the “tragic consequence” of Blankenship’s “confrontational approach to regulatory compliance.”
Also calling for Blankenship’s removal as CEO is New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, overseer of New York’s Common Retirement Fund, which owns 303,550 shares of Massey stock, valued at $14.1 million. DiNapoli issued a statement blasting Blankenship’s “callous disregard” for the safety of the minors who work for him:
“Massey’s cavalier attitude toward risk and callous disregard for the safety of its employees has exacted a horrible cost on dozens of hard-working miners and their loved ones,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “This tragedy was a failure both of risk management and effective board oversight. Blankenship must step down and make room for more responsible leadership at Massey,” said DiNapoli.
And CtW Investment Group’s letter was no less scathing, when it came to its disdain for Blankenship’s deadly management practices:
“We believe the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, which claimed the lives of 29 miners, is the tragic consequence of the board’s failure to challenge Chairman and CEO Donald L. Blankenship confrontational approach to regulatory compliance. As you know, we first raised this as a shareholder concern in our March 31 letter, in which we specifically cited the board’s “inability to exercise independent oversight of [Mr.] Blankenship.”
Blankenship’s mines racked up safety violations at an alarming rate, many of which he successfully appealed. The same day of the explosion, the Upper Big Branch mine was hit with two additional safety violations. And “in the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.”
Kevin Stricklin, coal administrator for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, promises an investigation into the explosion that resulted in the greatest loss of life, since a mining accident in 1970. “No stone will be left unturned and we’ll find out the cause of this explosion,” he said.
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Photo Credit: ABC