MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - The United Mine Workers of America will participate in the investigation of the explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey Energy's nonunion Upper Big Branch mine.
The UMW said Monday it has been designated the official representative for some miners who work at the Montcoal mine in southern West Virginia, but it did not say how many or identify them. The union cited concerns about possible retribution by Massey in withholding the workers' names.
Federal law permits the union to represent miners during accident investigations if at least two employees of the nonunion mine agree, just as it did after the Sago Mine disaster near Buckhannon.
Neither Massey nor the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is challenging the union's role, spokesman Phil Smith said.
Nor did Massey stop a UMW representative from entering the property Friday, as International Coal Group Inc. did after the Sago explosion killed 12 men.
The UMW was forced into federal court weeks after the January 2006 blast when ICG refused to let union officials accompany state and federal investigators underground.
MSHA, which had already recognized the union as legal representative for several workers, went to U.S. District Court in Elkins seeking an order to grant the union access. Judge Robert E. Maxwell promptly ruled the union had the right to participate and valuable expertise to contribute.
In that case, the UMW represented two of the 97 employees. ICG had challenged the union's involvement because the UMW would not disclose the names of the two miners.