The former head of coal producer Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, on Nov. 20 pleaded not guilty to the four counts of a federal indictment over a 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 miners.
A U.S. magistrate at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia set a $5m bond for Blankenship. As a condition of his bond, Blankenship must surrender his passport, and he will not be allowed to travel outside of the country. U.S. Magistrate R. Clarke Vandervort also said Blankenship cannot have any contact with victims or their families related to the Upper Big Branch case.
He is accused by federal prosecutors of conspiring to violate federal safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch. Blankenship’s trial before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger is set for Jan. 26, 2015.
Blankenship retired from Massey Energy, which was based in Richmond, Va., at the time, in late 2010, before it was taken over in mid 2011 by Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR). The stock market beating the company took after the mine explosion is considered a major reason why it was willing to be taken over by Alpha.