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UMWA President Roberts hails Senate passage of mine safety legislation

May 24, 2006

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The legislation passed today by the United States Senate includes several very important provisions that will make a difference for coal miners across America.

“The requirement to provide additional oxygen in the mines will give miners a better chance to survive incidents like what happened at the Sago mine in January and more recently at the Darby mine last week. Establishing a time line for the installation of communications and tracking technology so that we can find and talk to trapped miners is a step in the right direction as well.

“I commend Senators Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Kennedy (D-Mass.) for their leadership in crafting this bi-partisan legislation, as well as Senators Byrd (D) and Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia for their dogged insistence on passage of mine safety improvements.

“As tragedies in the mines continue to create more widows and make more children fatherless, all Americans are reminded we still have a long way to go to make America’s coal mines as safe as they must be. This legislation is a step in the right direction, and I urge the House to pass it as soon as possible and President Bush to sign it into law without delay.

“But there is much more still to do, starting with following up on the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s moratorium on the use of Omega Blocks for sealing abandoned mine areas by outlawing their use entirely. We must also require that seals constructed of more sturdy material, like concrete block, be able to withstand the pressure levels that actually occur in underground explosions -- standards that are required throughout the rest of the industrialized world.

“That step alone will be a tremendous stride forward in keeping miners safe and could have possibly prevented disasters like Sago and Darby before they happened. Had the explosions in those mines been contained with proper and well-constructed seals, we would not be mourning the deaths of so many brave miners today.”

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