Tuesday marked exactly one year since the Sago Mine disaster killed 12 workers and caused the nation to reassess mine safety. As families and mine safety advocates marked the anniversary, federal and state officials promised more reforms to reverse last year’s deadly results.
Across the nation, 2006 was the worst year for coal miner deaths – at 47, the largest annual death toll since 1995, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In West Virginia, which accounted for 24 of those mine worker deaths, Gov. Joe Manchin has promised more steps to build on legislation passed after Sago and the deaths of two miners in a fire at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine.
“It’s been a horrible, horrific year,” Manchin said in an interview with the Charleston [W.Va.] Gazette. “No one should go through this if we can prevent it, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In Washington, congressional Democrats are promising more hearings on the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s performance now that their party is in the majority.
“In the new Congress, we will conduct thorough oversight on the state of worker safety in America’s coal and noncoal mines,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who will chair the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said that passage last year of the MINER Act “is just one marker on the long route to undoing years of neglectful and industry-slanted policies at MSHA.” In a prepared statement, Rahall also called on MSHA to take tougher steps to protect coal miners from lightning-induced explosions underground.