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According to federal investigators, Massey Energy's safety records were purposefully doctored. In fact, Massey Energy had fake records - two sets of records, to be exact, an internal set of books and an external that was given to officials.
This dual accounting system meant that safety problems were only jotted down in one set of records. Keeping two sets of records is fine, but keeping hazardous conditions out of the official set of records is not, reports The New York Times.
In 2010, Massey's West Virginia mine exploded, killing 29 people. It has been under investigation since that event.
The internal set of records would cite many safety issues. The official books were silent. Federal investigators now say that management at Massey pressured mine workers to lie to inspectors and fabricate safety reports, reports Bloomberg.
In fact, managers at Massey were required to countersign many of the books at the mine, even though they knew there were a number of hazardous conditions, including low air flow and high levels of explosive gas, says Kevin Stricklin, the assistant administrator of coal at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
So far, only two people have been indicted in the case. A foreman is accused of lying on a document and lying to officials. And, the former chief of security of the mine, accused of lying and concealing documents. Stricklin's report will be issued formally in the fall, and it's unclear if more criminal charges will stem from these new revelations, reports The Times.
While criminal charges may be on hold, maybe these new revelations can also be used to bolster claims by families who are suing the mine after the death of their loved ones. If mine management knew of the hazardous conditions of the mine before the explosion, they may have been negligent in or even reckless in ignoring the safety problems and continuing mine operations.
For now, Massey Energy's fake records have also set off a firestorm of negative publicity for the already-beleaguered company. And, Massey Energy's safety practices are once again called into question.