Alpha clears U.S. Attorney review process that followed Upper Big Branch

Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) announced Feb. 10 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia has closed the Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) the company entered into on Dec. 6, 2011.

On April 5, 2010, an explosion at the Upper Big Branch deep mine (UBB) in southern West Virginia, which was operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy, claimed the lives of 29 miners. That blast touched off a new round of mine safety enforcement by federal and state regulators. Alpha acquired Massey Energy in June 2011, and six months later entered into the agreement with the U.S. Attorney related to its investigation of the accident.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Attorney determined that Alpha has met or exceeded its obligations under the NPA,” said Alpha Executive Vice President and General Counsel Vaughn Groves. “Throughout this process, we remained committed to responsibly addressing the UBB tragedy and resolving Massey’s liabilities, while implementing safety measures, training and research that will make our industry safer for miners not just today, but well into the future. We focused on strengthening our safety culture so that the results of this NPA will be positive and permanent. We appreciate the trust that U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and his office had in Alpha to enter into the NPA and we believe that the substantial safety achievements that Alpha has made these past two years have justified that trust.”

The steps taken by Alpha to meet, and in many cases exceed, the obligations of the NPA include:

  • Building a state-of-the-art Running Right Leadership Academy that has already seen more than 10,000 employees pass through its doors for instruction;
  • Fully funding, at $48m, a first-of-its kind foundation dedicated to improving mining safety and health through leading-edge research. The foundation recently funded its first 16 research projects;
  • Working with Matrix Design Group to create an award-winning atmospheric monitoring sensor that improves detection of potentially harmful developments in ventilation. Sensors are now installed in all underground working sections;
  • Reducing the total reportable incident rate (TRIR) across the Alpha organization by 31%;
  • Providing restitution and resolving matters with the families of deceased miners; and
  • Implementing Running Right at all properties, giving a greater voice to all employees.

During the two-year span of the NPA, Alpha committed to and then conducted one of the most significant, sweeping training programs in the history of the U.S. coal industry, delivering the equivalent of 57 years of training hours to miners and support staff. Last year, Alpha affiliates experienced their lowest on-the-job injury rate in company history.

Virginia-based Alpha is one of the largest and most regionally diversified coal suppliers in the United States. With affiliate mining operations in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, Alpha supplies metallurgical coal to the steel industry and thermal coal to generate power to customers on five continents. 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.