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MSHA denial of Crandall Canyon families' participation in investigation a "travesty," UMWA's Roberts says

August 28, 2007
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United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today.

"Yesterday, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) denied the UMWA's petition to be a miners' representative in the Crandall Canyon disaster investigation. This is a travesty that will have the effect of silencing the voices of the families of those still missing in the mine as this investigation moves forward.
"This action means that there will be no independent voice at the table in MSHA's investigation, questioning the actions of both the company and the federal government in this disaster. This outrageous action only confirms the rationale for our previous call for an independent, bi-partisan investigation of this disaster by Congress. By denying the families any participation in this investigation, MSHA is ensuring that it will be investigating itself in this tragedy, and American coal miners deserve better than that.

"We appeal to Congress to rectify this. These families should have the right to be full participants in this investigation, and they should be able to designate whoever they want to be their representatives.

"Let us not forget that 64 coal miners have been killed on the job in the last 20 months, and that does not include those still missing at Crandall Canyon. There are wives without husbands, children without fathers, parents without sons. Who more than they should have a right to participate in the investigations into the incidents that took their loved ones?

"The Crandall Canyon families have questions that demand answers. Why was the mining plan at Crandall Canyon submitted by Murray Energy when the previous owners of that mine declined to mine the same way, saying there was a problem with 'protection of personnel.' Why did MSHA approve it?

"Why was the intent of Congress when it passed the MINER Act last year ignored by MSHA in this disaster? MSHA is clearly designated by that Act to take control of all communications with the media and the American public to prevent the very kind of inaccuracies and misleading statements made almost daily by Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray.

"Yet for more than a week after the incident occurred, MSHA was only a weak closing act at the 'official' press conferences about the disaster. Murray could say anything he liked, true or not, and if MSHA had anything different to say, it was buried under Murray's bombast.

"Just like after Sago, Aracoma and Darby in 2006, our government has let American coal miners down. I say again: Sixty-four coal miners have been killed in 20 months. Six more are missing. The carnage in the coalfields must stop. We are angry and we demand that someone answer for this. We call on Congress to get those answers, because if it doesn't, no one else will be able to now."

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