Wednesday, April 09, 2008

GAO says mines lack communication gear and air supplies required by 2006 law, blames agency

In June 2006, Congress passed a law to force mines to install more safety equipment. The legislation was prompted by the deaths of 12 miners at West Virginia's Sago Mine, but two years later, a Government Accountability Office report says many mines have failed to add the equipment, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.

"Mine operators across the country have not all provided sufficient emergency air supplies or fail-safe wireless communications gear, according to the GAO report," Ward writes. "The U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration has delayed in providing the coal industry with guidance to implement reforms . . . passed in June 2006, the GAO concluded."

As of January, about 75 percent of underground mines had not provided the emergency air supplies required. The report was released by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., two days before a Senate hearing on Utah's 2007 Crandall Canyon mine disaster and other mine-safety issues. MSHA responded by issuing a statement that said it would offer mines help in implementing the demands of the 2006 law and establish a nationwide review for compliance with the act's requirements.

West Virginia Mine Safety Director Ronald Wooten told Ward most of the state's mines should have the required wireless communication devices installed by the end of the year. All 150 underground mines are expected to have installed underground refuge chambers as well. (Read more)

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