WASHINGTON -- Alpha Natural Resources, the energy company that purchased problem-ridden Massey Energy Company after the 2010 Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine disaster, has pledged $250,000 to a group dedicated to building a permanent memorial for the 29 men killed in that explosion.
Alpha Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield called the UBB memorial a "thoughtful and deserving project" in a Monday press release sent out by the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group, Inc.
"We hope that Alpha's support can help bring this tribute from concept to reality for the community of Whitesville," he added. "We welcome others to join us in supporting the memorial."
Sheila Combs, President of the UBB Mining Memorial Group, Inc., said representatives from Alpha approached the group during its takeover of Massey and expressed interest in becoming involved with the memorial.
"They came to us, they met with us, and then offered their assistance," Combs said.
According to Combs, the $250,000 is a matching donation that will be a major benefit to the construction of the memorial. Combs said architect Rob Dinsmore, a project designer at Chapman Technical Group and the designer of the UBB memorial, estimated the cost of the structure at $500,000.
Despite little campaigning on behalf of the memorial, the UBB Mining Memorial Group has already received several thousand dollars in donations from companies associated with the coal industry. Stahura Conveyor Products and Martin Engineering, two companies with ties to West Virginia coal production, donated a combined total of $30,000. Significant donations have also been made by several UBB victim's families and friends, with one family member providing $10,000 and donations given to the town of Whitesville totaling over $36,000.
Combs said the matching grant from Alpha is a sign of good will from the energy company, which agreed to a $7 billion buyout of Massey Energy in January 2011.
"I think people in this community will give Alpha the benefit of the doubt with this donation. They're coming in and making this gesture to be a part of our community, and I think that they'll be welcomed," she said.
Combs said the money from Alpha will hopefully inspire other companies with ties to the coal industry to step up and contribute to the memorial, which will not only recognize the 29 miners killed at Upper Big Branch but will also pay tribute to all who have lost their lives in the mining industry.
"I honestly believe that half a million dollars will complete this project as we have it drawn," Combs said. "Without even going forward and requesting money, the response has been so positive. I feel like within the next two months we're going to have all the money that we need."