CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CN) – Families of miners killed in the Upper Big Branch coal mine asked a federal judge to order the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to hold public hearings. The April 5 disaster killed 29 miners — the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years.
Without public hearings, “the MSHA’s analysis of its own role, if any, will remain secretive and inherently suspect,” according to the families William Griffith and Ronald Maynor, who died in the mine.
Griffith and Maynor’s estates are joined as plaintiffs by the United Mine Workers of America International Union (UMWA) and law firm Moreland & Moreland.
They demand that the federal government convene public hearings that include interviews with representatives of the miners killed in the disaster and representatives of the UMWA.
They also want the government to “be enjoined from conducting private investigative interviews.”
The estates say that under the Mine Act, the Secretary of Labor has the authority to hold such public hearings.
“By its press release of May 6, 2010, MSHA announced that it will conduct public proceedings in connection with the Upper Big Branch investigation, but before doing so it will ‘conduct private interviews of miners, mining officials and others with knowledge and information about the disaster,” the plaintiffs say.
“Unless MSHA conducts its investigative interviews in public with all witnesses subject to the government’s subpoena power, MSHA’s accident investigation will not be thorough; a compromised investigation likely will not uncover the root causes of what went wrong at the Upper Big Branch mine.”
The plaintiffs are represented by union attorney Grant Crandall.