11 years ago today, 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine

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A MEMORIAL to the 29 men killed in a 2010 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, W.Va. – John Raby/AP photo

Montcoal, W. VA – Today marks the 11th anniversary of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in Raleigh County, West Virginia, where 29 miners were killed on April 5, 2010.

Federal mine safety investigators determined a buildup of methane gas and coal dust led to the explosion at the Massey Energy-owned mine. It was the worst mine disaster in 40 years.

Massey CEO Don Blankenship was convicted in December 2015 of conspiracy to violate mine safety and health standards. He served one year in prison and paid a $250,000 fine.

Other Massey executives and mine officials were convicted and sentenced to prison for their roles in the disaster.

Massey was sold to Alpha Natural Resources in 2011. Alpha paid a $210 million settlement with the families of the workers and to address years of safety violations.

“Today, we mark the 11th anniversary of the massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine and the needless deaths of 29 miners,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said. “It remains the worst U.S. mining disaster in five decades. Today, the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration’s district manager in Beckley, West Virginia, is laying a wreath at the Upper Big Branch Memorial site in Whitesville to honor the lives lost.

“On behalf of the Department of Labor and its Mine Safety and Health Administration, I ask that we pause to remember these miners and their families for their contributions to our nation, and their sacrifices. Events like these are tragic reminders of the importance of improving miner safety and health. We must take every action possible to avoid terrible events like this, and to ensure that all miners return home safe and healthy after every shift.”

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