News / USA

US Government to Step Up Mine Safety Enforcement

Family members hold picture of miners killed in US mining explosion at congressional hearing, 27 Apr 2010
Family members hold picture of miners killed in US mining explosion at congressional hearing, 27 Apr 2010

Multimedia

David Dyar

The U.S. government is vowing to step up mine safety enforcement in the wake of the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in a generation.  The Senate committee that oversees workplace safety is also looking at ways to strengthen existing laws to protect miners.

The faces of the fallen looked out at the Senate hearing  room -- the images of coal miners killed on the job.

Family members held up the photos at the behest of the committee chair. "Hold up those pictures so we can see who those people are...these real human beings...hold them up...hold them up for us," said Senator Tom Harkin, the son of a miner.  He said each death was one too many.

"Too many employers cut corners on safety.  Too many workers pay the price with their lives," he said.

Twenty-nine died on April 5 in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, which is owned by the Massey Energy Company. Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said the mine was allowed to remain in operation despite a massive number of safety citations. "This facility had a record of numerous and serious safety violations including 515 violations last year alone," he said.

The head of the government's mine safety agency acknowledged enforcement of existing laws has not been tough enough.  Joe Main, the Director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said coal companies are able to drag out the process with endless appeals. "Looking in the past, I think there has a weakness in the enforcement of the law and it has a lot to do with the way the law has been interpreted, to be honest," he said.

Main said the government is now willing to go directly to court to shut down mines when necessary, and he called on Congress to enact tougher enforcement measures.

Cecil Roberts, the president of the United Mine Workers union, said such action is overdue. "How is it that a company can be allowed in this day and age to put people in this kind of a position.  Congress should stand up and take a position that we are not going to tolerate this!," he said.

Roberts said one of the young miners killed at Upper Big Branch left a message behind for his family one day when he went off to work.  He  quoted part of the letter at the hearing. "If I die in this coal mine please tell everyone that I love them. That's the kind of letter people use to write when they went off to Vietnam in my era," he said.

Massey Energy Company did not send a representative to the hearing, saying it was not a formal investigation into the cause of the explosion.  At a news conference Monday in West Virginia, Massey chief executive Dan Blankenship said the company has launched its own inquiry. "It is critical that we find out the facts so that all of Massey and the industry's coal miners can work without fear of another explosion," he said.

The National Mining Association refused to single out Massey during the hearing, saying only that the mining industry wants to improve its safety record across the board.  Association spokesman Bruce Watzman told the panel no new regulations are needed.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More