Federal inspectors turned up more than 60 serious safety violations at Massey Energy operations after the explosion that killed 29 miners at the company's Upper Big Branch mine, federal mine safety records show.
Inspectors visited more than 30 underground Massey mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia after the April 5 blast, according to records from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The agency has tentatively blamed preventable accumulations of explosive methane gas and coal dust for the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since 1970.
The violations include conveyer belt problems at Massey's Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine in West Virginia, where a belt fire killed two men in 2006. A Kentucky mine was cited for allowing coal dust to pile up on three occasions since the explosion.
Massey had no immediate response Friday.
MSHA issued the citations while conducting spot checks and routine inspections at the Massey operations. Inspectors also conducted spot inspections at mines operated by other major coal producers, including Consol Energy, International Coal Group and Alpha Natural Resources.
Agency records show the problems were not universal; several Massey mines weren't cited at all after the inspections.
Among those that came up clean is Massey's Tiller No. 1 mine in Virginia. Federal inspectors had warned Massey to improve safety at the mine last fall or face heightened enforcement for a pattern of serious violations.
President Barack Obama has ordered a sweeping review of coal mines with poor safety records and called for stronger mining laws following the Upper Big Branch tragedy.
Mines in West Virginia have been asked to stop producing coal Friday and concentrate on safety in memory of the Upper Big Branch victims.
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