A United States Senate inquiry opened on January 23 into two accidents in West Virginia in the first three weeks of January that killed 14 coal miners. Twelve of the deaths occurred after an explosion on January 2 at the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, owned by International Coal Group (ICG). Two more miners perished after a fire broke out on January 18 at Massey Energy Company’s Aracoma Coal unit. Both companies have been cited for repeated safety violations.
Federal mine safety officials and the mine owners will be called to testify before the 15-member bipartisan panel. The senators are expected to question mining officials about whether federal regulations are outdated and hazards are being minimized.
In an article reported on January 10 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter said the panel plans to look into the adequacy of funding for mine inspections and to explore whether there are connections between the Sago mine’s safety violations in recent years and the accident. "It’s been reported that there were quite a number of violations – I don’t know that to be a fact, but I’d like to hear from the mine inspectors as to what they found," he said. "The next question is what action did the mine owners take on correcting them. The third question is whether any of the violations were causative of the problems."
Separate reports will be issued on the mine explosion by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia investigators.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2006-01-24.