International Coal Group Inc. owners and operators of the Sago Mine in central West Virginia indicated just hours after the Sago mine disaster, that recent citations against their mine were "minor". Meanwhile, the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration report that 18 of the 46 citations were "significant and substantial". Over the past two years, the Sago Mine has been slapped with over 270 citations of which nearly 1/3 were "significant and substantial" including, mine roofs that tend to collapse without warning, faulty or inadequate tunnel support, failure to adequately insulate wiring (which could cause dangerous sparks), and dangerous buildups of flammable coal dust.

MSHA documents also show that the number of working days lost during the last five years because of on the job accidents is nearly double the national average. Also, during the last eight months, at least 16 violations were cited by MSHA that were listed as "unwarrantable failures", meaning the company had been previously warned about the violations or they were due to indifference or extreme lack of care.

12 Sago miners died in an explosion on January 2 after being trapped 260 feet below the surface. The miners waited two days for rescuers – one miner survived the initial disaster but was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The accident received worldwide attention when news spread that 12 of the 13 miners had miraculously survived the accident and extended rescue attempt after over two days of being trapped underground. Family members were outraged when they discovered that Company owners received word only 20 minutes later that the news was false – and neglected to pass along the corrected, albeit heartbreaking, news to them..

Sago was owned and operated by Anker West Mining Company until November 2005 when it was purchased by International Coal Group Inc. Anker West had been going through bankruptcy proceedings at the time of the sale. Sago employees around 150 employees.