Former coal magnate who battled mining health rules files for black lung benefits

Robert Murray once ran biggest private underground operation in US

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 01 October 2020 22:49 BST
A former coal magnate who fought mining health rules has now reportedly applied for federal black lung benefits.
A former coal magnate who fought mining health rules has now reportedly applied for federal black lung benefits. (AP2007)

A former coal magnate who fought mining health rules has reportedly filed for federal black lung benefits.

Robert Murray ran the biggest private coal company in the US for decades and rejected regulations designed to prevent workers from getting the disease.

In his application with the US Department of Labor he says he is now heavily dependent on oxygen and “near death”, according to ABC News.

Mr Murray, 80, is the former CEO and president of now-bankrupt Murray Energy.

“I founded the company and created 8,000 jobs there until the move to end coal use. I am still chairman of the board,” he wrote on a Labor Department obtained by the Ohio Valley ReSource.

“We’re in bankruptcy, and due to my health could not handle the president and CEO job any longer.”

Mr Murray’s claim will now be evaluated by the department to work out who is responsible for paying out benefits.

He states in his claim that he worked underground almost his entire career.

He declined to speak to media outlets but confirmed he had black lung and was entitled to the benefits.

“During my 63 years working in underground coal mines, I worked 16 years every day at the mining face underground and went underground every week until I was age 75,”  Mr Murray wrote in the claim.

His companies reportedly have a long history of fighting claims made by miners for black lung benefits.

Black lung is a fatal lung disease caused by exposure to coal and rock dust.

In 2014, Murray Energy led a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a federal rule that strengthened control of coal dust in mines.

Mr Murray’s failed lawsuit claimed the rules were unachievable and would have cost the industry billions of dollars.

He is a big supporter of Donald Trump and has helped form the president’s energy policy, according to ABC News.

“It’s ironic that Murray’s company fought hard to block the 2014 respirable coal dust rule we put in place to prevent the black lung disease,” said Joe Main, who served as assistant secretary of the Mine Safety and Health Administration under Mr Obama.

Lawyers have accused coal companies and insurance companies of dragging out cases and many remain unsettled when the miner dies.

Mr Murray reportedly listed wife Brenda as his dependent and she would receive the benefits for the rest of her life.

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