By Bob Weaver

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has claimed that the company's fatality rate was typical or average given its size, often touting the company safety record in TV ads.

An analysis by American University found that no company was responsible for more miner deaths from 2000 to 2009, even though Massey was only the sixth-largest coal producer in the United States.

Massey had the highest fatality record even before the explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 on April 5.

Fifty-four workers have been killed at Massey mines since 2000.

Massey amassed thousands more safety violations than any other coal company between 2000 and 2009.

Government investigators have cited Massey Energy for failing to report more than 20 accidents at its Upper Big Branch coal mine in the two years before the April explosion that killed 29 miners.

The failures involve unreported roof collapses, assorted injuries and other instances, all that were suppose to be reported, say officials.

The Upper Big Branch explosion is the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

MSHA recently fined a Massey Energy subsidiary more than $542,000 for violations that contributed to a fatal accident at a Virginia mine in 2009.

Massey is a company with a lengthy record of environmental and safety abuses, amassing an estimated $2.4 billion dollars worth of fines.

In 2008, a federal judge approved a deal that required Massey to pay a record $20 million fine on the $2.4 billion, to resolve thousands and thousands of alleged unpaid violations across the Appalachian coalfields.

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