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The Associated Press April 4, 2011, 9:33AM ET

Deadly W.Va. explosion makes big industry change

When 29 men perished in a powerful explosion at a West Virginia coal mine a year ago, the tragedy stunned the nation.

The aftermath of the Upper Big Branch disaster was stunning too, both for its impact on major players in the coal industry and for the absence of sweeping reforms.

The man sometimes known as the king of coal, Don Blankenship, was dethroned as head of the mine's owner, Massey Energy. And the Richmond, Va.-based company he ran for more than a decade may soon vanish in a $7.1 billion buyout.

Safety legislation stalled after the blast, but federal regulators credit tougher inspections for improving safety.

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