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1/11/2006

UMWA PRESIDENT HAILS STATE, CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS INTO SAGO DISASTER

Source: UMWA

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E.Roberts said today that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s announcementyesterday of a state investigation into the Sago disaster “is a first stepin the right direction of improving coal mine safety in the wake of thisterrible disaster.”

Roberts applauded Gov. Manchin’s selection of Davitt McAteer to head theWest Virginia investigation, saying, “Mr. McAteer has the experience toundertake this critical investigation, and the UMWA believes he has thedetermination to pursue this investigation wherever it may lead. That’sexactly what is needed here.”

The state investigation will be held in conjunction with the U.S. MineSafety and Health Administration (MSHA). MSHA and Gov. Manchin announcedyesterday that the investigation will include a public hearing, which is ararity in coal mine accident investigations.

“The public hearing can be a beneficial part of this investigation,” Roberts miners to know as a result of this investigation is that mine safety andhealth regulations will be strictly enforced at every mine in the UnitedStates. MSHA and the state mine safety agencies must view these regulationsas requirements for companies to follow, not mere suggestions.”

Roberts also said that the announcement by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.)that a U. S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing nextweek on the disaster “will help us all understand what happened at thismine, so that we can do whatever needs to be done to ensure that no familywill ever again have to go through what the families of the Sago miners hadto endure.“

Sen. Byrd, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chair of the subcommittee andSen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), the ranking member, all have a long-term commitmentto coal miners and their health and safety,” Roberts said. “I haveconfidence that with them taking the lead, we will get answers and we willbegin the process of working towards real, enforceable solutions.”

Roberts added that it is critical for the UMWA to be an integral part ofboth the state and congressional inquiries. “We have the expertise andexperience within our union to make a significant contribution to theinvestigation and the recommendations that come out of this. Our Director ofOccupational Health and Safety, Dennis O’Dell, has years of experience withmine safety issues and was on-site at the Sago mine during the rescueefforts while our UMWA mine rescue teams were involved. There is no onebetter qualified to be a strong voice for the safety of miners during thisinvestigation than Dennis.”

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