The U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District says, based on what he has seen, officials with Alpha Natural Resources are making safety changes for the better at former Massey Energy coal mines.

"We have anecdotal information, as well as information that they (Alpha) have reported that clearly indicates to us that they’re turning a corner," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

As part of an agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in December 2011, Alpha is required to make and report safety changes at the sites the company bought from Massey.

Alpha took on a list of problems with the acquisition of Massey, the company that owned the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County at the time of the 2010 explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

Six months into the effort, Alpha officials report accidents are down by almost a third at former Massey mines now owned by Alpha and injuries have dropped 25%.

Goodwin says the company has done remedial safety maintenance at all of its former Massey mines and has added maintenance and safety personnel at former Massey operations as well.

The company has also bought meters to monitor dangerous conditions at all of its mines.

"We’ve seen substantial progress in the six months since we entered into this agreement," the U.S. Attorney said.

Construction continues on Alpha’s new $18 million training facility in Boone County which is scheduled to open next June.  It will be available to Alpha miners and those working for other companies.  That training facility will include a 96,000 square foot mine simulation lab so miners can train in realistic mine conditions outside of actual mines.

Alpha has also established a mine safety and health research foundation.

Goodwin, though, says Alpha still has work to do.  "Now, there are pockets of concern," he said on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline.  "But, by and large, it’s apparent that they are turning a corner."

Since December, Alpha has paid the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration more than $34 million in penalties that came directly from Massey.

Alpha’s next report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office is due in December.

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