ICG tells union to butt out of Sago investigation

INTERNATIONAL Coal Group has told the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) not to interfere with the federal and state investigation into the Sago disaster that killed 12 miners.

Angie Tomlinson

On Thursday neither ICG or the union attended investigation interviews.


The UMWA and ICG had drafted a written agreement that says neither will participate in the interviews but the UMWA has not approved it, union communication director Phil Smith told Associated Press.


ICG claimed UMWA was attempting to use a provision of federal regulations that permits two miners to designate an organisation as their representative even if that organisation does not represent the employees at the mine.


ICG said the UMWA did not represent the 150-plus employees at Sago, and had “no familiarity or knowledge of the Sago Mine that will benefit the investigation in the fashion normally anticipated of a miner’s representative”


In a statement on January 10, UMWA president Cecil Roberts said it was critical for the union to be “an integral part of both the state and congressional inquiries”


"We have the expertise and experience within our union to make a significant contribution to the investigation and the recommendations that come out of this.


“Our director of occupational health and safety, Dennis O'Dell, has years of experience with mine safety issues and was on-site at the Sago mine during the rescue efforts while our UMWA mine rescue teams were involved. There is no one better qualified to be a strong voice for the safety of miners during this investigation than Dennis."


The incident, the worst mining-related accident in the state of West Virginia in almost 40 years, will be investigated as a joint effort between the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the state's office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.


While interviews delving into the details surrounding Sago would be held in private, West Virginia governor Joe Manchin said a public hearing would also be held – not to determine the cause but rather to examine safety and rescue issues.

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