UPDATE 4-Seven die, 19 missing in West Virginia mine blast

(Adds governor’s statement, rescue details, background on
mine’s record)

PHILADELPHIA, April 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Rescuers raced to find 19
missing coal miners after an explosion killed seven of their
colleagues on Monday at a West Virginia mine owned by Massey
Energy (MEE.N: ).

The accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, also
known as Whitesville, was one of the deadliest at a U.S. coal
mine in recent years. The mine, owned by Massey’s Performance
Coal subsidiary, is about 30 miles (48 km) south of the state
capital Charleston.

Massey said seven miners were killed, about 20 were injured
and 19 were unaccounted for.

“We want to assure the families of all the miners we are
taking every action possible to locate and rescue those still
missing,” Chief Executive Don Blankenship said.

Rescuers included officials from state and federal mine
safety agencies and first responders from all levels of
government, said Leslie Fitzwater, a spokeswoman for the West
Virginia Department of Commerce.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin called the news
“devastating” and offered support to the miners’ relatives.

“For those families who are still waiting for news on their
missing loved ones, I want them to know that we are doing
everything possible in cooperation with federal officials and
the company to get our miners out as quickly and safely as
possible,” Manchin said on his website.

Manchin, who said he had spoken with President Barack Obama
about the disaster, was headed to the mine site late on Monday
and was due to meet with the miners’ families.

Massey, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is the largest
coal producer in Central Appalachia with operations in West
Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

In after-hours trading, Massey shares were at $51.90, down
5.1 percent from the closing price of $54.69 on the New York
Stock Exchange.

ACCIDENT RATE

Massey said on its website its accident rate fell to an
all-time low for the company in 2009. It said its safety record
last year was stronger than the industry average for the sixth
consecutive year.

According to local media reports, the Upper Big Branch Mine
has had three fatalities since it opened in 1994. Two of the
miners died in roof collapses in 1998 and 2001, while a third
was electrocuted in 2003 when repairing an underground car.

The mine extracts coal using the “longwall mining” method
in which a rotating shearer tears coal from a lengthy face,
leading the ground behind it to collapse. Critics say the
method may cause surface subsidence and damage to buildings.

In the worst coal mine disaster in U.S. history, 362 miners
died in an explosion in 1906 in the Monongah mine, also in West
Virginia.

In January 2006, 12 miners died after an explosion in the
Sago Mine, run by International Mines Corp in Tallsmansville,
West Virginia, according to the U.S. Mine Rescue Association.
In 2007, nine miners died in a collapse of the Crandall Canyon
Mine in Utah.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said it
was notified of the explosion at the Massey mine at about 3:30
p.m. EDT (1930 GMT) and that rescue efforts were underway.

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said in a
statement he was “heartbroken along with the community by the
tragic news unfolding of the explosion at Upper Big Branch
South mine.”

Investment Research

(Reporting by Jon Hurdle in Philadelphia; Writing by Mark
Egan; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

UPDATE 4-Seven die, 19 missing in West Virginia mine blast