Documents show continual dangers in West Virginia mine

State troopers guard an entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big  Branch mine.

The operator of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 miners were killed last week exposed workers to potentially fatal or disabling conditions nearly 300 times since late 2008, records show.

More than 1,100 pages covering more than 700 citations released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) give the most comprehensive picture yet of the Upper Big Branch Mine, where an April 5 explosion caused the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1970.

Inspectors repeatedly found dangerous conditions such as inadequate air, faulty fire extinguishers, exposed wiring, malfunctioning communication systems, inaccurate gas monitors and water as deep as 4 feet “that could result in drowning.”

Mine owner Massey Energy has challenged many citations and says problems were fixed immediately but conceded shortcomings Tuesday. “This mine’s record was not as good as Massey’s record as a whole,” Massey counsel Shane

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