Big Branch Mine Supervisor Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Charges

Gary May, the former senior supervisor at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine in West Virginia, has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators.

May faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his role in concealing hazardous conditions at the mine from MSHA inspectors. According to the Department of Justice, May’s unlawful and willful actions at Massey Energy’s UBB, where an explosion in April 2010 killed 29 minters, served to “hamper, hinder, impede and obstruct by trickery, deceit and dishonest means” MSHA’s attempts to enforce federal mine safety regulations at the mine.

“People who run coal mines have a fundamental obligation to be honest with mine regulators,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “When mine operators resort to tricks and deceit to keep government officials in the dark, our mine safety system unravels and miners are put in harm's way. The least we can do for coal miners is protect the integrity of the laws designed to keep them safe.”

May was accused of giving mine operators advanced notice that MSHA inspectors were planning to inspect the mine, giving them time to “conceal and cover up violations of mine health and safety laws,” said prosecutors. In testimony March 29, May admitted he tipped off mine operators, and he admitted to falsifying safety records and to ordering miners to circumvent safety measures in a methane monitor.

“I'm pleased that Mr. May is cooperating with our investigation," Goodwin added. “We hope he can give us a better picture of what was going on at this company.”

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