Abstract: The April 5, 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion in West Virginia was the worst coal mine disaster in the United States in 40 years. Given the importance of the coal industry to the United States, coal mine safety regulations do not effectively prevent such disasters from occurring, and a culture of impunity protects both coal companies and government agencies from being held accountable for contributing to disasters. The United Mine Workers of America's diminished strength in West Virginia leaves most miners with little recourse against growing corporations. An examination of the history of disasters in West Virginia coal mines provides insight into how the factors leading to the Upper Big Branch explosion developed and can potentially be prevented. [West Virginia, coal mining, mine disasters, labor unions, corporate impunity, Massey Energy, legislation and enforcement]
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