Updated: Feds Blame Gas, Dust For Deadly W.Va. Mine Blast

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Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- Massey Energy Co. is disputing the federal government's conclusion that a methane gas fire and broken equipment sparked a massive coal dust explosion that killed 29 miners at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration released the findings Wednesday.

Massey General counsel Shane Harvey says the company doesn't believe problems with the cutter on the mine's main mining machine and sprayers designed to douse fires contributed to the blast.

Harvey repeated the company's claim that dust played no meaningful role in the explosion and that the blast was caused by high levels of natural gas.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal investigators say a small methane gas ignition fueled by excessive coal dust that piled up at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch Mine caused the April 5 explosion that killed 29 miners.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration revealed the findings Wednesday.

MSHA says Massey also was running the mine's main cutting machine with missing water sprayers, which help control dust and douse small methane ignitions before they turn into explosions.

MSHA official Kevin Stricklin says there's no evidence supporting Massey's theory that a massive burst of gas from a floor crack that overwhelmed safeguards.

MSHA's final report is due in two to three months. Federal prosecutors continue a separate criminal investigation.

(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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