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January 10, 2006
Mine safety probe
  • Ex-MSHA chief to oversee investigation

  • By Ken Ward Jr.
    Staff writer

    Gov. Joe Manchin on Monday appointed one of the nation’s foremost mine safety experts to oversee a state probe of last week’s disaster at the Sago Mine.

    Manchin said Marion County native Davitt McAteer would also study broader issues and propose wholesale changes to make the state’s mines safer.

    “These 12 lives will not be lost in vain,” Manchin said during a Capitol news conference.

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    Manchin and McAteer promised to hold public hearings as part of the investigation, and to issue a report by July 1.

    “We will pursue every lead,” said McAteer, who was head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration. “We will follow every avenue of inquiry, and we will take every step necessary to find the problems and to fix those problems.”

    At the same time, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced Monday that the Senate would hold the first hearing on the Sago Mine disaster next week in Washington, D.C.

    Byrd said the Jan. 19 hearing, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, would include federal and state mine safety officials, labor and business representatives and academic experts in mine safety. Byrd worked with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, to schedule the hearing.

    “The families of the Sago miners deserve to know what happened in that mine,” Byrd said. “Just as importantly, miners and their families across this country want to know that steps are being taken to prevent others from ever experiencing such pain.”

    Byrd added that, “There are tough questions to be asked of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

    “Is enforcement of coal mining regulations tough enough? Are the regulations on the books today current enough to handle the challenges posed by 21st century coal mining? Are mine hazards being minimized? These and other issues demand scrutiny, and the miners’ families deserve the answers,” Byrd said. “I will work in the Senate to get the truth.”

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    Photos

    Twelve black ribbon bows line the fence Monday surrounding the Sago mine in Upshur County where 12 miners perished last week. Friends and fellow miners continued to bury the dead Monday following the state’s worst coal mining disaster in years.
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