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Gwen Thomas' brother Grover lived with her when he was not working at UBB. They were very close. Gwen understood from testimony at DON's trial and from MSHA briefing meetings that MSHA was essentially blaming Grover and the other miners for causing the UBB explosion by not doing their jobs properly.
The government line was that Massey and Don Blankenship only cared about production and profits. The other government falsehood was that the miners were so afraid of Don and of losing their job that they broke the mining laws.
The facts are that nothing could have been further from the truth. Confidential surveys conducted by professional consultants were conducted both before and after the tragedy. The miner’s responses to questions regarding Massey safety practices, the quality of training, the condition and availability of equipment, the miners comfort with telling management about safety issues and other similar questions made clear that more than 93% of the miners believed Massey mines to be safer than other mines they had worked at.
MSHA and the prosecutors also made a big issue out of the number of violations UBB received. Here again the government misled the jury, the public, and the families.
UBB had about the average number of violations for a US longwall mine. In fact, UBB had far less violations than the most comparable mine to it; i.e. the Harris Mine next door. Former Massey mines in the UBB area received more violations after Alpha acquired the mines than they did under Massey. And as to the government's claim that Massey received more violations than its competitors because it did not staff its mines with enough miners, this was proven false too. Alpha added miners, and yet violations increased.
Gwen asks in the video whether MSHA required changes which reduced the airflow. The truth is that they did. Not only did MSHA require ventilation changes which reduced the airflow by 50%, they did so despite being begged by company personnel not to do it. Incredibly, both of the government's lead witnesses testified to this fact at trial.
Gwen also asked about natural gas exiting the mine. The truth is that MSHA knows that a huge volume of natural gas exited the mine after the explosion. It was enough natural gas to fuel 17,000 homes that use solely natural gas to heat and cool and operate their appliances for a full day. An explosion expert report fully explains why it is clear that UBB was a natural gas explosion and not a dust explosion as MSHA claims. It’s not an opinion, it is a scientific fact.
We wish to express our sincere thanks to Gwen for her understanding, her courage and her assistance in exposing the truth of what happened at UBB "For the Sake of Coal Miners".
UBB "For the Sake of Coal Miners".