The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 26, 2006

Manchin signs new ‘rapid response’ mine rescue bill

CHARLESTON — Families of miners victimized by two disasters this month watched Gov. Joe Manchin sign new rescue legislation Thursday with a vow to pursue any needed changes in safety laws.

Manchin signed a three-part bill focused on rescue operations he rushed through the Legislature this week and suggested God wants laws altered, if needed, to make the industry safer.

Amid muted sobs of some relatives of miners who perished in the Sago explosion in Upshur County and the Aracoma conveyor belt fire in Logan County, Manchin spoke about faith as a bulwark among West Virginians, calling it “stronger than anything I’ve ever seen.”

“We’ll accept God’s faith, but we also accept God’s willingness for us to make things better,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

Toward the goal of improving mine safety, Manchin said he has directed extra legal minds to research the code to see if any changes are in order.

The governor wasn’t certain if any suggestions would come in time for the Legislature to act before the session ends March 11.

“We’ll get it done,” he told reporters afterward.

“We’re exploring it. If we need to something, we’ll come back. You know that. We’re committed to safety.”

Manchin guided his “rapid response” bill through both chambers Monday, one that imposes a $100,000 fine, as of July 1, on any operator failing to report a serious accident within 15 minutes to the state’s emergency center in Charleston.

A second part calls for wireless tracking devices so that miners can be pinpointed at all times.

Location became a critical and time-consuming element in both disasters this month.

The third segment of the bill compels mine owners to place embedded oxygen devices strategically throughout the mine so workers have access to breathable air, given the high concentration of carbon monoxide known to build up in the labyrinths of underground installations.

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