At a roundtable conversation he convened today at Concord University on mine safety, Senator Jay Rockefeller called for a comprehensive approach to making mines safer -- one that includes stronger laws, safety training and the development of new safety technologies. His remarks come just before the three-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch disaster and amid a wave of mining deaths in West Virginia this year.
"Frankly, we don't need any more wakeup calls. Our eyes should be wide open to the safety risks our coal miners face every day," Rockefeller said. "We shouldn't minimize the progress that's been made, but the fact remains -- and recent incidents show -- that major reforms are needed to protect West Virginia's coal miners. In the coming weeks, I'll reintroduce my mine safety bill -- with input from stakeholders like those gathered today -- and aggressively work for its passage.
"We are just a few months into the year, and seven coal miners have died on the job -- including five in West Virginia in separate incidents. Five coal miners with families who loved them and are mourning. Five too many."
Acknowledging that legislation is just one component of stronger mine safety, Rockefeller brought together a roundtable panel that included representatives of the United Mine Workers of America, the coal industry, government regulators, the private sector, higher education, and an Upper Big Branch family member to discuss every facet of this issue.
"There is no silver bullet. There never is. But what we need is an open, honest look at what works. We know stronger laws can make mines safer, we know effective safety training saves lives, and we know how important it is to have the best technologies with our miners underground," Rockefeller said. "Making our mines safer will take all of us working together -- and that's what today represents."