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Massey Moves To Seal Upper Big Branch Coal Mine Where 29 Died

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Massey Energy Co. is moving to seal a West Virginia coal mine where 29 miners died in an explosion a year ago.

A federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman said Friday that the company has submitted a plan for sealing the Upper Big Branch mine. Amy Louviere says agency representatives expect to meet with Massey officials on May 5 to discuss the closure plan.

But, she said Massey is "requesting sealing of the entire mine."

The southern West Virginia mine was the scene of the nation's deadliest coal mine explosion since 1970. The April 5, 2010, blast remains the subject of civil and criminal investigations.

The mine is operated by Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co. and produced 1.2 million tons of coal in 2009, according to federal records.

It has 19 openings and roughly 7-foot ceilings. Inside, it's crisscrossed with railroad tracks used for hauling people and equipment. It is located in a mine-laced swath of Raleigh and Boone counties that is the heart of West Virginia's coal country.

A call to a Massey official was not immediately returned Friday.

The Richmond, Va.-based Massey is nearing completion of a $7.1 billion takeover by Abingdon, Va.-based rival Alpha Natural Resources. Both companies expect to close the deal on June 1.

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