Protecting Miners’ Jobs, Their Safety

Another West Virginia coal miner was killed on the job late last month. That makes four this year.

It was the second fatality at International Coal Group’s Pocahontas Mine near Beckley during the past two years.

In June, a Leslie County, Ky., mine was shut down for eight days by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, after an unannounced inspection resulted in 31 citations and orders. Those hazards existed despite Bledsoe Coal Corp. being under intense scrutiny from MSHA since a miner was killed there in 2010.

More than two years after the Upper Big Branch explosion killed 29 miners, there still is not enough being done to keep the profession safe.

While President Barack Obama’s administration goes full bore after coal jobs through misguided environmental regulation, too many politicians have sat on their hands instead of looking for ways to safeguard miners.

Some attempts are being made to hold mine operators accountable for safety and health hazards. One bill in Congress would ban operators from keeping two sets of books on safety problems – one to be shown to MSHA inspectors and another reflecting the true state of affairs. Also in the measure is a requirement for new rules on dust levels in mines.

Lawmakers should be acting to protect coal miners on two levels: First they should call a halt to Obama’s war on mining jobs. Second, they should do more to ensure those jobs do not put men and women at risk.