WASHINGTON — The former president of a Massey coal mine in West Virginia was charged with conspiracy to violate federal mining safety laws Wednesday, and federal authorities said he was expected to plead guilty in a widening criminal investigation that began after a 2010 explosion killed 29 miners.
David C. Hughart, former president of Massey's Green Valley Resource Group, was charged in U.S. District Court in Beckley, W.Va., with a felony on allegations of tipping off mine officials in advance of federal safety inspections. He was also charged with a misdemeanor on allegations of conspiring with other "directors, officers and agents" of the company's coal mining operations to ignore federal safety regulations in order to increase coal production.
Though Hughart was not charged in the explosion, and actually left the company just weeks before the disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine, the charges and his apparent willingness to cooperate with federal law enforcement agents make him the most senior Massey official to be prosecuted since the explosion, and signals that prosecutors are turning their attention to even higher targets within the company.
"Miners deserve a safe place to earn a living," said R. Booth Goodwin, the U.S. attorney in Charleston, W.Va. "Some mine officials, unfortunately, seem to believe health and safety laws are optional. That attitude has no place in the mining industry or any industry."