Records published by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration show that Performance Coal, the operator of the West Virginian mine where 25 people died this week, had a history of health and safety violations.
The records show that the Upper Big Branch mine had three fatalities since 1998 and a worse-than-average injury rate in the past ten years, with a 100 safety violations recorded in 2010.
Performance Coal, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, has also been accused of engaging in aggravated conduct by failing to correct a known hazard in the form of combustible materials that had accumulated beneath the bottom roller of a conveyor belt located in the mine.
The 25 miners died as a result of an explosion, the cause of which is still unknown.
Reports show that Performance Coal allegedly forced miners to work in 48in of dark, murky water and in 2007 Massey Energy received 204 warnings of health and safety violations for the past two years.
US President Barack Obama ordered mine safety officials to report next week on the cause of the explosion, the Upper Big Branch mine’s safety record and steps the government can take to improve mine safety enforcement.
Meanwhile, rescue teams re-entered the mine on Friday to search for four missing miners after the rescue operation was temporarily halted due to the presence of dangerous gases, including methane and carbon monoxide.
The Upper Branch Mine blast is the country’s deadliest mining disaster since 1984, when 27 miners died in a fire in Utah.