Massey Energy revealed the company’s benefit plan for families of miners killed in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion at a press conference held in Charleston, WV today.
Don Blankenship, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy, and other board members offered their condolences to the families of the 29 miners killed in the April 5 mine accident, who President Obama eulogized in a memorial service on Sunday.
The benefit as outlined in an April 26, 2010 Letter to Stakeholders:
• Each miner’s spouse (beneficiary) will collect life insurance benefits that are five times the miner’s annual pay. In addition, the company will pay the surviving spouse the monthly difference between the miner’s base standard pay and the monthly worker’s compensation benefit until the spouse remarries or dies.
• A surviving spouse will be entitled to 20 years of health benefits, unless she remarries.
• Dependent children also will continue to receive health benefits until at least age 19 and, in some cases, until age 24. A childcare benefit for children up to the age of 12 also will be available.
• And Massey Energy will provide dependent children with a four-year scholarship to an accredited public college, university or vocational school located in West Virginia.
"The first and most important consideration, of course, is providing care for the families of the 29 miners who died,” said Massey director General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong in a press release. “Massey Energy is providing these benefits without requiring any family to settle any legal issues — we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do."
"I feel they’re sincere, trying to do the right thing, but what kind of guarantee do I have?" Kim Lane, widow of miner Rick Lake, asked in a USA Today article. Lake told the newspaper that life insurance was part of her husband’s benefit package and that he paid for it through his job. She wondered what would happen if Massey Energy went out of business in the future. "Is this set aside in a separate fund, is it bonded?"
During the press conference, Massey Energy officials defended the company’s safety record at Upper Big Branch Mine, which has had an unusually high number of safety citations from the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA). Director Stanley Suboleski felt it important to point out that ventilation changes ordered by MSHA and protested by Massey engineers reduced the flow of fresh air to the mine.
Upper Big Branch Mine remains closed while MSHA, the State of West Virginia and Massey Energy investigate the cause of the explosion.