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Wednesday
Nov282012

Mining Scandal: Guilty Plea from Highest Ranking Executive Yet

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BECKLEY, W. Va.) -- Charges were filed Wednesday against a West Virginia mining executive as part of an ongoing investigation into Massey Energy.

David Hughart, former president of Massey’s Resource Group, was charged with conspiracy to violate mining safety laws, and conspiracy to impede a subsequent investigation. According to a release by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, Hughart has agreed to plead guilty.

The investigation spans a ten year period starting in 2000, during which prosecutors allege the company routinely ignored safety rules to maximize profit.  In April 2010, an explosion in Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 West Virginia miners.  

The charges are not directly linked to the explosion, but due to a continuing long-term conspiracy.

“Miners deserve a safe place to earn a living,” Goodwin said in a release. “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. Today’s charges reinforce that urgent message.”

Hughart is the highest ranking official charged thus far in the investigation.  Booth Goodwin’s office said Hughart has agreed to cooperate, which suggests prosecutors are still working their way up the corporate ladder.  

Don Blankenship was Massey’s CEO throughout the period under investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio