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Government sues firm for data in mine probe

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The US Mine Safety and Health Administration filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing a mining company of not cooperating in its investigation into a fire that killed two workers earlier this year.

The lawsuit alleges Aracoma Coal Co., a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co., is deliberately withholding documents and has failed to turn over other evidence .

The mine safety agency , MSHA, wants a court order requiring Massey and Aracoma to cooperate. The accident is also the subject of a criminal investigation by the US attorney's office in Charleston.

The Jan. 19 fire at Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine started along a beltline more than 2 miles inside the Logan County mine. Investigators have not said what caused the fire, but they have issued more than 100 violations since the investigation began.

Don I. Bragg, 33, and Ellery Elvis Hatfield, 47, died after they were separated from their crew.

Massey, the nation's fourth-largest coal company in revenue, denied the allegations, saying it has given MSHA more than 13,000 pages of documentation. The company said it believes the additional material sought by MSHA is outside the scope of the federal agency's authority.

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