Mine Owner to Pay $200 Million in Death of 29 Men

New York Times

By Sabrina Tavernise

December 6, 2011

In what officials say is the largest ever settlement in a government investigation of a mine disaster, Alpha Natural Resources agreed to pay $209 million in restitution and civil and criminal penalties for the role of its subsidiary, Massey Energy, in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 men in West Virginia.

That amount includes $46.5 million allocated to the families of the victims and those who were injured in the blast, according to a source close to the investigation who requested anonymity because he was not permitted to speak about the arrangement.

Sources close to the investigation said the settlement, which will be announced at a news conference at 11 a.m. by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, includes terms that protect Alpha — but not individual Massey executives — from prosecution.

The settlement, first reported by the Charleston Gazette, follows months of investigative work by federal officials from the Departments of Justice and Labor, as well as an independent commission appointed by the former West Virginia governor. The findings that had been made public placed the blame for the blast squarely on Massey and what investigators said was its reckless disregard for safety standards, but had stopped short of assigning criminal blame.

Tuesday’s announcement, which will be made public after federal investigators meet with families of the victims in West Virginia, will detail criminal responsibility, that Alpha, and in turn Massey, which it now owns, will accept.

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