Starting with a 30-minute mantrip ride to deep under the ground, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta got a close-up look at a West Virginia coal mine recently – an experience Acosta said gave him an appreciation for the men and women who work in the nation’s 13,000 mines.

Acosta, along with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), got to watch a continuous mining machine in action. The device, which employs a large rotating steel drum equipped with bits to extract coal from the seam, was equipped with a proximity detection system which can detect the presence of personnel or equipment and avert pinning or crushing accidents.

They toured the ICG Beckley, LLC Pocahontas Beckley Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Sen. Manchin said that seeing the mine operations first-hand “changes your perspective on the health and safety of these miners and how dangerous this profession really is.”

Senator Capito said: “West Virginians know far too well the importance of keeping our miners safe on the job, having endured tragedies like the one that claimed 29 lives at the Upper Big Branch mine.”