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Feds: Massey mine official lied, destroyed evidence

| Monday, Feb. 28, 2011

Massey Energy Co.'s head of security at the Upper Big Branch in Montcoal, W. Va. lied to federal investigators and ordered the destruction of thousands of pages of security-related documents, according to a federal grand jury indictment released today.

Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, who supervised all security guards at the mine, ordered the documents destroyed in a trash compactor in early January, the indictment reads, and did so despite being aware that “the FBI and (Mine Safety and Health Administration) were conducting an investigation into allegations of criminal conduct involving (the) Upper Big Branch mine.”

He was arrested today and faces a March 15 hearing in Beckley, W.Va. Calls to his house were not answered.

An explosion inside Upper Big Branch on April 5 killed 29 miners and injured two, making it the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in 40 years.

Massey officials said they are cooperating with investigators.

“The company takes this matter very seriously,” said Shane Harvey, Massey Energy general counsel. “Indeed, the company notified the U.S. Attorney's office within hours of learning that documents had been disposed of and took immediate steps to recover documents and turn them over to the U.S. Attorney's office. The matter remains under review and the company has no further comment at this time.”

Stover is accused of lying to federal inspectors when he said on Jan. 21 that he would have fired anyone who gave advance notice of MSHA investigators on the property, which is illegal.

Investigators said Stover personally directed and trained security guards to give advance notice when MSHA sent inspectors to the mine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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