The Pittston Company Before The Flood
At the time of the Buffalo Creek disaster, the Pittston Company was the leading independent producer of coal in America and ranked fourth in production among all U.S. coal-mining concerns. The company owned 374,969 acres in Appalachia, making it the fifth largest corporate landowner in the region, and had reserves of 1.5 billion tons of mostly high-grade metallurgical coal-the coal needed to make steel. Headquartered in New York City, Pittston also owned an oil company, Brink's armored car company, forty percent of the warehouses in New York City, and a large trucking firm.
Pittston bought the Buffalo Mining Company in June 1970 to increase its supply of immediately available metallurgical coal. The company completed construction of the large coal-waste dam on Buffalo Creek and was running the production from eight mines through the preparation plant located above the dam.
In 1971, Pittston's profits were $43.4 million, about triple what they were three years before, and lucrative long-term contracts with the steel industries in Japan, France, and other countries assured the company of a continuing market for its coal.In 1971, there were nine deaths and 743 serious disabling injuries in Pittston's mines, which meant that the company was second in terms of fatal frequencies and non-fatal frequencies among U.S. coal companies. In this same year, federal inspectors found more than 5000 safety violations in Pittston's mines for which the Bureau of Mines assessed the company $1.3 million in fines. At the time of the disaster, Pittston had paid $275 in fines, using appeals and delays to avoid each penalty.