US mine safety legislation blocked

MINE safety legislation adopted unanimously by the US Senate last week has now been blocked, angering coal groups and law-makers.

Angie Tomlinson

US Representative George Miller (D-Calif) blocked the House passage of the bipartisan mine safety legislation on Thursday. Now House members must wait until June 6, after a Memorial Day recess, to tackle the Bill.

“America’s coal mining community was surprised and deeply disappointed that an objection by a single member prevented the House from passing the MINER Act, despite the urging of both the United Mine Workers of America and the National Mining Association to approve this mine safety Bill for the protection of America’s coal miners,” NMA president Kraig R Naasz said.

“Politics should have no place where the health and safety of our nation’s miners are concerned.”

Under the Bill, miners would be required to have at least two hours of oxygen available instead of one, as is the current policy. It also would require mine operators to have more oxygen packs along escape passages and to perform regular checks on the devices.

The Bill also provides legal indemnification for rescue teams and authorises stronger federal funding for mine safety research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

It also will require companies to provide communications and tracking equipment.

Miller objected to the Bill on the grounds he wanted to add three more provisions: the requirement of a 48-hour supply of oxygen for trapped miners, two-way communications equipment in all mines, and regular federal inspections of oxygen-supply equipment.

The Senate Bill already requires each miner to have two hours of oxygen and additional emergency supplies placed inside of mines.

Quick passage of the Bill was deemed essential by law-makers following the recent fatal accidents in Kentucky and West Virginia.

In total, 32 coal miners have been killed in mine accidents this year, which already tops the 22 mine deaths throughout the whole of 2005, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.