CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Joe Manchin called for all coal companies in West Virginia to shut down for safety checks after two more mine workers were killed Wednesday in separate accidents.
While Manchin’s call was voluntary, he also ordered mine inspections speeded up so that all 544 of the state’s surface and underground mines are examined by regulators as soon as possible.
“We’re going to check for unsafe conditions, and we’re going to correct any unsafe conditions before we mine another lump of coal,” Manchin said.
David Dye, acting U.S. assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, later urged coal mines nationwide to conduct safety and training sessions on Monday for workers at the beginning of each shift. He cited the recent upsurge in mine accidents.
“I am asking miners and management at every mine operation to do the right thing: take one hour out for safety’s sake this Monday,” Dye said in a statement.
Both deaths Wednesday occurred at mines in southwestern West Virginia, officials said. One miner was killed at an underground mine when a wall support popped loose. And a bulldozer operator died at a surface mine when the vehicle struck a gas line and sparked a fire.
The deaths brought to 16 the number of mining-related fatalities in West Virginia since Jan. 2.
Manchin said the safety checks would include reviewing mine conditions, safety checklists and designated escape routes.
The West Virginia Coal Association, whose members account for 80 percent of the state’s coal production, said its members would heed the governor’s request. Association President Bill Raney expected the safety checks would take a matter of hours, depending on the mine type and size.
“They were immediately complying,” Raney said.
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