CEO At Center Of Deadly Mine Disaster Facing Life In Jail For Numerous Safety Violations

The former CEO of Massey Energy Co., Don Blankenship, is set to go on trial on Thursday in West Virginia. Blankenship is facing federal charges that come from a mine explosion that killed 29 people in 2010.

Blankenship is up against three felony counts for supposedly disregarding hundreds of safety violations at the Upper Big Branch Mine. He is also being accused to trying cover up the violations after the fact.

The Upper Big Branch Mine is about 40 miles south of Charleston, WV.

The 2010 explosion was the worst mine disaster in the United States in nearly four decades. A fire at the Idaho Silver mine killed 91 workers in 1972.

So far, more than 100 people have been contacted for jury selection. The trial is taking place in the United States District Court in Charleston, WV.

The trial has been relocated from Beckley, WV by Judge Irene Berger, after representatives of Blankenship argued that the former CEO would not receive a fair trial in that area because of the incident that occurred, as well as the intense publicity of the upcoming trial.

Blankenship is pleading not guilty. He is currently free on a $5 million cash bond. Lawyers of Blankenship have repeatedly made attempts to delay the trial.

Prosecutors are accusing the former CEO of conspiring to falsify evidence and violating federal security laws by lying about the safety practices of Massey.

If Blankenship is convicted on all charges, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

In March, a gag order issued by Judge Berger was lifted. The gag order had sealed filings and disallowed participants from discussing the case.

Blankenship served as the CEO of Massey Energy from 2000 to 2010.

Massey Energy was purchased by Alpha Natural Resources Inc. for roughly $7 billion in 2011.

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