The former CEO who oversaw West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine, which exploded in 2010 killing 29 people, was indicted this week on federal charges related to a safety investigation that followed the disaster.
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship stands accused of violating safety and health standards at the mine and is currently the highest-ranking executive to face charges in the tragedy. The explosion and investigation led to the overhaul of the way the federal government oversees mine safety.
Explore.org covered this story in the aftermath of the explosion in the short film “West Virgina Special” when explore.org founder Charlie Annenberg traveled to that state and learned first hand from coal miners about the environmental impact coal mining has had on the land, economic problems that have resulted from big business moving in, and health problems that plague the citizens from unsafe mining practices. In the film’s most heartbreaking sequence we visit an elementary school situated below a 2 billion ton lake of toxic sludge. The Annenberg Foundation supported the building and relocation of the school with a $2.5 million donation.
In another moving scene, the families of miners lost in the 2012 explosion demand accountability for the accident; the current indictment of Blankenship may provide a sense of justice and relief. Watch “West Virginia Special” in its entirety below: