ASHLAND, KY—International Coal Group, owner of the Sago Mine in West Virginia where 12 miners died earlier this week, has retained Dix & Eaton as its media relations agency for the crisis.
International Coal was widely criticized for its initial response to the crisis, and particularly for not correcting miscommunication that allowed relatives and the media to believe the majority of the miners had been rescued for two hours after the company learned they were dead.
Just before midnight on Tuesday, rescue workers reported finding the “survivors” and word spread quickly to relatives, to the West Virginia governor, and to the media. Shortly after midnight, International Coal executives learned that all but one of the miners was dead but did not share that information with the relatives until around 2.30am.
Chief executive Bennett Hatfield explained: “Let’s put this in perspective. Who do I tell not to celebrate? I didn’t know if there were 12 or one (who were alive).”
The company was also slow to provide information at its website, with a statement of regret only appearing on Thursday, the day Dix & Eaton was retained. The company has also now donated $2 million to the Sago Mine Fund, which is soliciting donations for the grieving relatives.
International Coal, which sold 21 million shares to the public in December, is controlled by New York billionaire Wilbur Ross, whose other interests include International Steel Group, for which D&E has also handled media duties.
D&E chief executive Scott Chaikin described the situation as “a tragedy, horrific for the families and awful for everyone involved. Few of us can imagine how tough it must be to operate under circumstances as difficult as these.” He said his firm’s work for International Coal was “just getting started.”