Alpha: Upper Big Branch will be permanently sealed - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Alpha: Upper Big Branch will be permanently sealed

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Just a day before the two-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, Alpha Natural Resources announced Wednesday evening that the mine will be permanently closed.

The mine was the site of one of the worst mining accidents in recent U.S. history. The lives of 29 men were lost at the Raleigh County mine.

Alpha acquired the property with other Massey Energy assets when it bought the company last year. The portals that allow entry to the mine are to be permanently sealed with concrete barriers to prevent access.

A release from Alpha Natural Resources said the boreholes will also be plugged and mine fan shafts capped. The work to seal the mine is expected to begin this summer.

"Though two years have passed everyone still has vivid memories of the tragedy and the suffering the miners' families endured," said Alpha Natural Resources CEO Kevin Crutchfield. "For all of us in the mining industry it is a solemn reminder of why we must always put safety first in everything we do at work and at home. Our hearts go out to the families of those lost at UBB on this anniversary of the accident."

Since acquiring Massey, Alpha has touted its "Running Right" safety program and shared its hopes that the program would reverse what investigations have revealed to be a culture of production over safety at Massey mines.

"When Massey joined Alpha last year, we brought all 7,000 Massey employees through our proprietary Running Right safety process, which led to significant improvement in safety performance," Crutchfield said. "We are currently making safety-related investments in leading-edge technologies that will make coal mines safer throughout the industry."

Part of a settlement with federal investigators related to Upper Big Branch required Alpha to follow additional safety requirements beyond federal mine law.

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