Memorial Dedicated to Upper Big Branch Miners

Relatives of the 29 miners killed in the April 5, 2010, explosion, MSHA’s administrator, and elected officials attended the July 27 ceremony in Whitesville, W.Va.

A granite memorial honoring the 29 men who died in an explosion inside the Upper Big Branch Mine has been dedicated during a July 27 ceremony in Whitesville, W.Va., near the site of that coal mine once owned by Massey Energy Company. MSHA Administrator Joe Main, family members of the miners who died, and some elected officials attended the ceremony, with Main delivering brief remarks.

The mine has not been in operation since the blast. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., which bought Massey after the explosion, announced in April 2012 that it would permanently seal the mine this year.

"We know that there was a workplace culture prevalent at Upper Big Branch valuing production over safety, including practices that fostered and encouraged non-compliance with safety and health laws," Main said, according to MSHA's posted version of his remarks. "The mining community cannot endure this kind of disregard for human life, and it should not have to. The tragedy also identified that more needed to be done to provide miners with a voice in the work place, and to hold those who flaunted the mine safety laws more accountable. It inspired us to redouble our efforts to aggressively enforce the Mine Act, and we continue to move forward to maximize the positive impact we can have on the lives of our nation's miners.

"It's true that mine safety is the law. But it's more than that to those of us who have made a life in mining. It's a promise to a wife, a husband, or a child. A promise that when a miner leaves home to begin their workday, that they'll be back after their shift -– healthy and whole. It is that basic ideal that we all share, a common thread that links miners throughout a town, a state, and a nation. All of us know mines can be operated safely and while many live up to that responsibility, there are those that do not. We know that more needs to be done to improve mine safety and health and instill a culture of prevention in the mining industry that reflects the values of those who give so much of themselves to provide for their families, and enrich their communities.

"We cannot change the events of April 5, 2010, but we can and will act to ensure that those who died at Upper Big Branch did not die in vain. We all owe this to all of our nation's miners."

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