Whitesburg KY
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Supports Massey

In response to the editorial in the February 2 edition of The Mountain Eagle entitled “Erasing Massey” I would like to offer a different perspective from that of the anonymous author’s.

I am Ross Kegan and have managed the Kentucky operations for Cumberland Resources and now Massey Energy since 1999, tenure that should qualify me to comment.

The article’s author was incorrect in the assessment of the August 23, 2009 incident at North Fork No. 4 in Letcher County, stating that 12 miners were sent underground even though the mine was closed. In fact, these miners were allowed to be underground, performing tasks specifically approved by MSHA. Was this mischaracterization of the referenced event an effort to mislead? Perhaps.

The author also attempted to impugn the character of Richard Gilliam, implying that Mr. Gilliam had done a disservice to the Cumberland employees by selling the operation to a known “serial violator.” Mr. Gilliam’s reputation for operating a first-class company has been well documented, and his character was on full display as he distributed $80 million to individuals in the form of bonuses and retirement plan contributions in April 2010. Shame on that author for implying anything sinister about the former Cumberland Resources owners.

It is not surprising that the author was able to find derogatory quotes about Massey Energy from the UMWA’s Cecil Roberts, given the UMWA’s repeated failures at unionizing Massey’s operations, but Mr. Roberts’ opinion of Massey’s commitment to safety could not be more different from what we have experienced.

In the 10 months of Massey’s ownership of these operations, I have not once been told to increase profits. On the contrary, the focus from Massey has been to implement even stronger safety programs, to reduce the number and severity of accidents, and improve compliance with both federal and state laws.

It is not that easy to “erase” from the industry and our memory a company that sends over 7,000 people home safely every day, feeds and educates those families through competitive pay and benefi t packages, and does the hard work of providing fuel to power this country’s economy. ROSS KEGAN Black Mountain Resources LLC Benham, Ky.

If Kegan seriously believes the editorial was an attempt “to impugn the character” of Richard Gilliam, the former owner of Cumberland Resources Inc., then Kegan should go posthaste and sign up for a refresher course in reading comprehension. In addition to the editorial in question mentioning Gilliam’s “generous parting gift” to his former employees, Gilliam’s decision to share the wealth from his sale to Massey Energy Inc. was the subject of this newspaper’s lead story on April 21, 2010.

There was also no effort on the part of this newspaper “to mislead” readers about the incident which occurred at the Black Mountain/Cumberland Resources North Fork No. 4 Mine at Partridge in August 2009, which resulted in criminal charges being filed against two supervisors at the mine. The indictments were later dismissed.

As for Kegan’s contention that Massey should be praised as a company “that sends over 7,000 people home safely every day,” Massey’s very poor safety record speaks for itself.

If Kegan had rather work for Massey than its apparent new owner, Alpha Natural Resources, that’s his business. However, this newspaper continues to be happy for the Letcher County miners and their families who will soon be going to work for a company that has a much better safety record.

— Editor

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