Industrial Homicide in the Coal Mines


The United Mine Workers of America held a press conference in Charleston, West Virginia to release Industrial Homicide: A Report on the Upper Big Branch Disaster.

On April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia killed 29 miners.

The UMW report calls federal and state officials to hold Massey Energy and its executives “accountable for the death of each of the 29 miners.”

“Theirs is not a guilt of omission but rather, based on the facts publicly available, the union believes that Massey Energy and its management were on notice of and recklessly tolerated mining conditions that were so egregious that the resulting disaster constituted a massive slaughter in the nature of an industrial homicide,” the report concludes.

In a footnote, the report’s authors write that “industrial homicide” is not a specific criminal act and technically speaking is not one of the classes of homicide in either the State of West Virginia where the tragedy occurred, or in the Commonwealth of Virginia where both the company and union headquarters are located.”


There is no crime of industrial homicide in West Virginia.

But there is a crime of involuntary manslaughter that Massey could have been charged with.

In West Virginia “involuntary manslaughter” involves the accidental causing of death of another person, although unintended, which death is the proximate result of negligence so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”

And the UMW report points to a mountain of evidence supporting a claim of “reckless disregard for human life.”

The problem?

The statute of limitations for involuntary manslaughter is one year.

The state of West Virginia was urged to bring such a prosecution against the company and responsible executives.

But the Raleigh County, West Virginia Prosecutor refused.

And the UMW didn’t weigh in while the window for prosecution was open.

Why not?

The UMW had no explanation.

Here’s one – maybe the UMW wasn’t serious about homcide prosecution against Massey.

If they were, they could have weighed in when it mattered.

Now, they are pushing for federal authorities to bring Massey and its executives to justice.

But not for homicide.

“I don’t think that the opportunity for prosecution of Massey Energy is over,” said UMWA’s Phil Smith. “The federal investigation still ongoing.”

Yesterday, a former Massey mine security chief – Hughie Elbert Stover – was found guilty of lying to federal safety inspectors.

“We want make sure that this doesn’t stop with Stover,” said UMWA attorney Judy Rivlin. “We think it is a significant problem. There are a number of theories that could be pursued.”

But not the “homicide” of the UMW report’s title.

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving