WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training

2006 Mine Accident and Safety


Last revised:  03/12/12 12:02 PM

NOTE TO MEDIA: The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will update this page as statements and public updates are made available.

Please direct questions to Caryn Gresham, spokeswoman, at 304-558-2288, ext. 347.

JUNE 5,2007

Jim Bennett Administrator
WV Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety (304) 558-1425
The West Virginia Coal Forum

WV Mine Communications Workshop Set for Thursday
Charleston, WV
(June 7, 2007) – According to West Virginia law, “all underground mine operators shall submit a communication/tracking plan for approval by the Director of the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training no later than July 31, 2007”.

The West Virginia Coal Forum, West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training and the West Virginia Mine Safety Task Force will host a workshop from 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, in the South Hall of the Charleston Civic Center to update the mining community on state and federal requirements governing the implementation of mine communications/tracking devices in West Virginia’s underground coal mines.  

 The purpose of the workshop is to provide the mining community with a review of state and federal mine communications requirements, discuss the review and approval process for mine communications/tracking products and highlight research conducted by state and federal agencies.  Coal company representatives will also present on their experience with communications devices. 

 Speakers at the event include:  Ron Wooten, Director, WV Office of Miners’ Health Safety & Training; James Dean, Chair, WV Mine Safety Technology Task Force; David Chirdon, Mine Safety & Health Administration; David Snyder, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health; Randall Harris, WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training; Frank Peduti, Peabody Energy; Mark Watson, Alliance Coal; and, Brian Shimek, Foundation Coal.

Mine communications/tracking and rescue shelter vendors will exhibit at the event. Media are encouraged to attend.

For additional information, contact Jim Bennett at (304) 558-1425.

May 9, 2007

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training today received the Mine Safety and Health Administration report on the federal agency’s investigation of the Sago accident.  Director Ron Wooten had this comment in response to questions regarding the state agency’s review of the report:

The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training plans to take time to review the MSHA report before making comments on it.  Like the state agency, the federal investigators took time and effort to review the many facets of this accident before issuing a report.  Miners'Health, Safety and Training hopes that this report, along with the investigation reports from Miners' Health, Safety and Training, Governor Manchin's special advisor Davitt McAteer, ICG and the UMWA, can be used to reinforce the understanding in our industry of the steps we can take to make West Virginia's underground mines safer for the men and women who enter them every day.  That focus on safer mines, better communications and rescue

operations will be the legacy of the men who lost their lives in the Sago mine.

March 9, 2007

Approved Emergency Shelters

For immediate release

Feb. 22, 2006

For more information, contact Sara Harris 304-395-5111

West Virginia Coal Forum presents safety technology demonstrations

            The West Virginia Coal Forum will meet Feb. 26 and 27 at the Charleston Civic Center for a series of demonstrations on the uses and safety aspects of emergency shelter and chambers and communications and tracking systems.  The program will provide opportunities for discussion about the systems which are being reviewed by the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training for use in West Virginia’s underground mines.

            The forum is open to the public and there is no charge for admission.  Coal industry business leaders and mine operators are encouraged to attend the forum for this opportunity to see first-hand the systems.

            On Monday, Feb. 25, the program will begin at 11 a.m. with opening remarks by Fred Tucker of the Coal Forum.  Following Tucker’s remarks, Randall Harris will discuss the application process that the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training is following.  Five companies will make presentations on their emergency shelters and chambers. 

Following a lunch break, the shelters will be on exhibit and the shelter companies will meet with the Miners’ Health, Safety and Training safety technology task force to answer questions and discuss the shelters.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the program will focus on communications and tracking systems. Fred Tucker will open the forum at 9 a.m.  Seven companies will have time to introduce their systems before lunch break.  Then, following lunch, the companies will offer demonstrations of their equipment and discuss the systems with the safety technology task force. 

February 1, 2007
CHARLESTON WV – The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training is accepting applications for the safety instructor examination.  Applications are available from the agency’s Charleston office or can be downloaded from the Web site at www.wvminesafety.org.

            “With the continuing emphasis the agency places on safety, we are looking for candidates who have knowledge of West Virginia mines and a strong interest in helping to train the state’s miners in the safest methods of working in the mines,” said Director Ron Wooten.  “We are facing an immediate need to increase the number of safety instructors to ensure that the agency can get the messages of safety out and can serve the industry, and especially our miners, in an efficient and timely way.”

            To be a candidate for the examination, an applicant must be a West Virginia citizen at least 24 years old who has practical experience and knowledge of mining, including practical experience with dangerous gases found in coal mines and an understanding of mining methods, mine ventilation, safety practices and mining laws and rules.  The applicant must meet at least one of the following requirements:

*     have a West Virginia foreman or fireboss certification

*     have at least three years experience as a working team member of a mine rescue team or as a member of a first aid or emergency medical technician team

*     have at least three years or the equivalent as a safety director or

*     have at least three years as an active member of a mine safety committee.

            To be qualified as a mine safety instructor, candidates must be a graduate of a four-year high school or have the equivalent education, have at least five years of practical full-time or part-time paid experience in coal mines, with at least two of those years in West Virginia mines, and have a valid West Virginia driver’s license.  A mine safety instructor may be a graduate of an accredited college of mining engineering experience which is considered the equivalent to two years of practical mining experience.

            The agency offers study guides and mining law books for nominal fees to anyone interested in preparing for the exam. Those guides include the mine safety law book (rules and regulations) for $18.00, underground mine foreman guide for $15.00 and the certification policy manual for $12.00.  The books are available from the agency’s Charleston office, its four regional offices in Danville, Fairmont, Oak Hill and Welch and on-line at www.wvminesafety.org.  There is a postage and handling fee for books that are mailed.

            For more information about the application process, contact the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training at 304-558-1425 or visit www.wvminesafety.org.   

For immediate release

Jan. 24, 2007

Contact:  Caryn Gresham

304-558-2200, ext. 347


Agency Receives Certification Applications for Emergency Shelter

            The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training received the first certification applications for emergency shelters and chambers for underground mines in West Virginia.  These applications, presented to Director Ron Wooten, are from two firms with West Virginia operations and offices.

            “We are excited to receive these applications, which represent a significant step forward in providing underground mine operators and miners with last-resort shelters if they are needed in a mining emergency,” said Director Ron Wooten.  “And, with two models to review, the agency will be able to encourage mine operators to select the shelter that best fits their operation needs.”

            Wooten met with representatives of the two companies, Strata Products (USA) Inc. and Engineering Consulting Services, Inc., Jan. 19. The companies demonstrated both the rigid and inflatable shelter models before submitting the certification applications.

            The requirement for all underground mines to provide these shelters for miners is a result of the ground-breaking legislation directed by Gov. Manchin in February 2006 following accidents at the Sago and Aracoma mines. 

            The next step for certification is for the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training staff to review the certification package and make recommendations to Wooten on the viability of using these shelters in West Virginia mines. 

            For mine operators, this certification information will be important because each operator must submit plans for the use of emergency shelters/chambers in mines by April 2007.

            The criteria for certification was developed by the Safety Technology Task Force, a team of labor and mine operator representatives that developed guidelines and standards for emergency shelters and chambers as well as self-contained self-rescuers and communications/tracking equipment. The task force took into considerations standards and guidelines from the state agency and federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, other federal agencies and recommendations from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.


 Agency receives applications

Jan. 24, 2007

Page 2 of 2 

In reviewing the applications, the agency will consider such criteria as:

·        Protection in the shelters must be available within minutes and last at least 48 hours

·        Shelter must be designed to survive an initial event (i.e. fire, explosion or roof fall)

·        Shelter must be large enough to support a number equal to or exceeding the number of miners expected to be working in an area

·        Shelter must meet standard pressure and temperature thresholds

·        Interior environment must support miners and meet standards for oxygen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide

·        Miners should be able to enter and exit the shelter as needed

·        Shelter must be readily identified as occupied or unoccupied

·        Shelter must provide a system for monitoring air quality inside and outside of the shelter and a method for signaling the surface

In its recommendations for the emergency shelters/chambers, the Safety Technology Task Force recognized that there is no one standard that will meet the needs of every West Virginia mine.

“We are mindful of the need to be flexible in accepting the plans from our underground mines,” Wooten said.  “We hope that the submission of these two models will be followed quickly by certification applications from other companies that have shelters available.”

The models submitted for review were manufactured by Strata Produces (USA) Inc. which has corporate offices in Marietta, Ga., and production facilities in Sutton, W. Va.  The company is a provider of innovative roof support, ventilation and safety products to underground mining operations around the world.  Engineering Consulting Services, Inc., of Williamson, W. Va., performed the independent professional engineering review of the models as required by West Virginia mine safety rules.  The company also has offices in Lexington, Pikeville and Corbin, Ky., and provides mining civil and general engineering support to companies throughout central Appalachia.

To contact Engineering Consulting Services, Inc.:

            Kevin Houston, P. E.



To contact Strata Products (USA) Inc.:

            Rory Paton-Ash



Jan. 5, 2007

Contact:  Caryn Gresham 304-558-2200, ext. 347 cgresham@wvcommerce.org

State Office to Step Up Compliance with Mine Safety Requirements

CHARLESTON, WV – The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will step up its efforts to expedite requirements for mines to add self-contained self-rescuers (SCSR), emergency shelters and communications and tracking devices.

            “Since taking the role of director three months ago, I have reviewed the progress within the office and throughout state mines, and I believe the time is now to require that mines get these safety features in their mines as fast as possible or face the consequences of  enforcement actions,” said Director Ron Wooten.  “Much groundwork was completed last year, and we must move quickly to build on that foundation and honor our commitment to make our mines the safest in the nation.”

            Wooten applauded the work of the six-member mine safety technology task force that worked tirelessly for almost a year in researching and reviewing equipment and making solid recommendations to the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.

 “This team of labor and management leaders has taken its task to heart and worked many long hours to give us a blueprint for installing safety equipment in the mines,” he said. 

            Wooten’s team will pay specific attention to the introduction of SCSR caches, emergency shelters and communications and tracking devices as it moves forward with its review of what is being done.

            “I am not satisfied, nor can the mining industry be satisfied, with just meeting regulations’ deadlines.  We must meet the spirit of the law by doing everything we can to get safer conditions in our mines as fast as we can,” Wooten said.  “And we cannot wait for perfect-fit solutions; we need to make the best use of what’s available, upgrading as we are able.”

            The Miners’ Health, Safety and Training district offices are contacting all mines to determine how many mines have completed their SCSR studies, ordered equipment and put into place as many SCSRs as are available to them.

            The Office anticipates that as many as five emergency shelters will be presented to it by three manufacturers.  The Office will examine the shelters and expedite approval of their use so state mines can order the shelters and put them in place ahead of the schedule originally set.

            With regard to communications and tracking devices, Wooten said that by taking a common-sense approach, mines can introduce some systems which are available now.  “These are not the complete wireless systems we hope to see in mines in the near future”, Wooten said.  “But they are reliable wireless systems that provide present-day communications while additional work is done on more advanced technology.

            “I also am making a commitment to the industry and the public that the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will communicate its efforts – both in pushing forward with mine safety and expediting compliance – as quickly as possible,” Wooten said.

Statement From The Governor: On The WV Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training Report on the Aracoma Mine tragedy

- November 02, 2006
Contact: Tom Hunter, 304-558-3848

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The following is a statement from Gov. Joe Manchin on today's release of the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training report on the Aracoma Mine tragedy:

“After being with the Hatfield and Bragg families this morning and hearing along with them the findings of the Aracoma report issued today by the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (MHST), I, and my administration, remain strongly committed to improving mine safety in our state. This report is very straight forward with regard to the role of the state in this tragedy. 

We cannot and will not overlook the fact that, for various reasons, MHST’s inspection processes and reports prior to this deadly fire apparently did not fully and accurately capture the safety conditions present at this particular mine. We take this finding very seriously. As a result, our new Director of MHST, Ron Wooten, following the work of our previous interim Director Jim Dean, has already made changes to several of the processes of MHST, and my office is working closely with all involved on a package of legislation for the regular session that will address additional areas of needed improvements. 

Be assured, it was because of Aracoma and Sago and the men who perished at these mines that we were able to so quickly make historic changes nationwide to our mine rescue efforts this year; and it will also be because of these men and the lessons learned from their deaths that we achieve even more substantial changes in the future.   

While we have made strides since we lost our miners at Aracoma and Sago in January, we all know that there is still much more work to do. As I promised the families this morning, we will use this report and all other information available to us on Aracoma, including the pending reports from both Davitt McAteer and MSHA, to continue that work as quickly and as thoroughly as possible so that no other families have to go through what they have been through these last 10 months.”

August 31, 2006

Governor Appoints Ronald Wooten as Office of Miners' Health, Safety and
Training Director

- August 31, 2006
Contact: Lara Ramsburg, 304-558-2000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin today announced his appointment of
Ronald Wooten to serve as Director of the West Virginia Office of
Miners' Health, Safety and Training (MHST). 

Mr. Wooten replaces James Dean, Director of Extension and Outreach and
Associate Director of the Mining Extension Program at West Virginia
University (WVU), who in February agreed to serve as Acting Director of
MHST on a strictly temporary basis until an appropriate search for
permanent replacement could be conducted.

A 30-year veteran of the mining industry, Wooten served as Vice
President of Safety for Consol Inc. from 1982 to 1998. Most recently, he
served as Safety Director of Mt. State Bit Service Inc., an independent
explosive contracting company located in Morgantown. In addition, Wooten
has served as a mine safety consultant to companies in the industry and
law firms. He previously served as Director of Federal Government
Relations for Consolidation Coal Co., and as an Assistant Legislative
Counsel, Assistant General Counsel and Senior Counsel for The American
Mining Congress. He began his career in the industry with United States
Steel Corp. in 1972.

"Ron Wooten is a recognized figure in the mine safety community and I
appreciate his desire to be part of our continuing efforts to enhance
mine safety in West Virginia, making our state a model for the rest of
our nation," the governor said. "I appreciate Jim Dean's service during
the past seven months during one of the most critical periods in the
history of this agency and the state's oversight of the mining industry,
especially his leadership in implementing many of the recommendations
presented by the Mine Safety Technology Task Force report and Davitt
McAteer's Sago Mine report.  Furthermore, I look forward to Ron's
building on the solid foundation that Jim and his staff have established
for a safer mining industry."

A Bruceton Mills resident, Wooten is a 1968 graduate of Emory and Henry
College, where he earned dual degrees in economics and history, and a
1972 graduate of Memphis State University (now the University of
Memphis) College of Law. He is a past chairman of the Bituminous Coal
Operators' Association Safety Committee, Joint Industry/United Mine
Workers of America Safety Committee, and American Mining Congress Coal
Mine Safety Committee. He also has served on National Mining Association
Safety and Health Committee, West Virginia Coal Association Steering
Committee and West Virginia Coal Association Mine Law Committee.

Mr. Wooten's transition into this position will start immediately, and
will be complete no later than Oct.1. His salary is $82,000.

July 10, 2006
The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training today is sending letters to the state's mining industry requiring that each mine operator provide to the office a complete inventory of self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) by Aug. 15. West Virginia is the first state to initiate a comprehensive tracking system for these units and is doing so as part of the emergency rule introduced by Gov. Manchin and approved by the state's Legislature in early February.

James Dean, acting director for the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, is sending the letters that explain the office would begin maintaining an inventory of all SCSRs that are in service and that the inventory and tracking system would help the office provide the industry with up-to-date information about equipment. All underground mine operators and independent contractors must complete the extensive inventory by Aug. 10. The office estimates that there are 10,000 SCSRs in West Virginia's underground mines.

Mine operators and independent contractors will be required to file quarterly update reports as well. In addition to identifying the SCSRs in service, the reports, which will be used for a tracking system posted on the MHST Web site, will allow the office and the industry to track the use and conditions of SCSRs and to identify specific problems that need to be targeted for attention and study.

The comprehensive inventory report asks for information on the mine or contractor, make/model of SCSRs, serial numbers, manufacture date, in-service date, removal date and reason for removal, inspection date, inspector's name and certification, location and location number, and specific information about inspection actions.

The letter to industry and the inventory form can be found at www.wvminesafety.org.

June 22, 2006
For immediate release
Contact:  Caryn Gresham
304-558-2200, ext. 347

Media Advisory

Energy Forums to focus on mine safety progress, energy uses

The West Virginia Coal Forum, sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Forum, the National Research Center for Coal and Energy and Marshall University, will host a series of public forums focusing on mine safety and technology.  The first forum will be Thursday, June 29, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center and will include a panel presentation by the Mine Safety Technology Task Force on its recommendations to the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training and Governor Manchin.
"A great deal of effort and attention is being focused on the technology, equipment and training that are needed to provide our miners with the safest environment that we can," Governor Joe Manchin said.  "These meetings give us an opportunity to share the progress being made in national and state plans as well as offer expert presentations and discussions with coal industry members and the general public." 
The forums will be held around the state in the next seven months, with each one- day forum dedicated to different topics.
"This is an ideal time for us to share the state's plans for mine safety and the information we have about safety equipment and technology with the public," James Dean, acting director for the Office of Miners' Safety, Health and Training, said.  "As the coal industry develops plans for individual mine safety technology and communications, the coal operators, miners and the public have the opportunity to hear experts discuss the equipment that is available and learn more about the challenges our industry faces."
The June 29 meeting will include a panel presentation by the six-member Mine Safety Technology Task Force on the mine safety recommendations the task force presented to Dean and the Governor in May.  Dean will discuss West Virginia's amended mine safety rules and Davitt McAteer will provide an update on the Sago Mine report plans.
Senator Jay Rockefeller is scheduled to discuss the federal Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) law and mine safety representatives from other Appalachian coal producing states will talk about how their states are responding to mine safety requirements and regulatory changes.
In the next few months, the Coal Forum schedule includes:
July West Virginia Mine Safety Progress - Improving Fire and Explosion Prevention and Response
August West Virginia Mine Safety Progress -- Improving Escape Tools:  SCSR, storage plans and lifelines
September West Virginia Mine Safety Progress - Improving Emergency Decision Tools: Communications and Tracking
October West Virginia Energy Progress -- Creating Products from Coal:  Liquids, Chemicals and Solids
November West Virginia Energy Progress -- Securing our Energy Intensive Industries
December West Virginia Mine Safety Progress -- When All Else Fails:  Emergency shelters/chambers and mine rescue

Locations and dates for upcoming meetings will be announced as the schedule is finalized.  More information about this month's program and registration can be found at the West Virginia Officer of Miners' Health, Safety and Training Web site, www.wvminesafety.org and at www.rrcce.wvu.edu/energyforum/

April 28, 2006

Good afternoon!  We are moving closer to the Sago Mine Hearings next week and have some additional information to help you plan for your attendance at next week's presentations.
This e-mail includes information on updates for hearing site, witness list to date, media access and credential information.   If you have any questions about the media plan, please contact me at cgresham@wvtourism.com or 304-558-2200, ext. 347. 

To accommodate as many people as possible, the hearings have been moved from the Campus Center to the John D. Rockefeller IV Physical Education Center.  Directions to the center and the media room are included in the Media Access and Credentials section below.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting will have a camera crew at the hearings and has offered to provide footage service to other broadcast media.  However, if you prefer to have your own camera crews, please make the arrangements necessary to have them at the scene.  Only television cameras there for authorized media outlets will be allowed in the hearing room.


All media must receive credentials to gain access to the hearings.  A media photo ID will be required for credentials to be issued.  These will be issued on site at the hearings. 

· Media credentials will be issued in the media filing room in the John D. Rockefeller IV Physical Education Center-Room 214 (second floor). The filing room will be open Monday, May 1 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. and from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday.  The filing room will include tables, wireless internet access, easy access to the hearings from the center and left balcony.  Coffee, water, and soft drinks along with snacks will be available.
· At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, we will conduct an important briefing to outline the procedures and rules for media coverage of the hearings (Room 214).  All credentialed media should attend.  We have established these rules to comply with the wishes of family members as well as to provide appropriate access to the media.  Families have asked that no members of the media contact them for interviews during the hearings.
· Media and general public parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Ross Football Stadium and the Rockefeller Physical Education Center.  The parking lot can be accessed off of College Avenue (just below the East Main Street intersection).
· All photographer requests (unless already made with Caryn Gresham with the West Virginia Travel and Tourism Office) must be made either by email (skinner_b@wvwc.edu <mailto:skinner_b@wvwc.edu>) or by phone to the West Virginia Wesleyan College Marketing and Communication Office (304) 473-8111. 
· No television cameras will be allowed in the Rockefeller Center except those with authorized media credentials.
· Radio stations who want to broadcast the event must contact the Wesleyan Marketing and Communication Office.
· Television satellite trucks (except those that are involved with the pool coverage) will park in the lower end of Wesley Chapel Oval (near the entrance of the Rockefeller Center.)  Please notify the Wesleyan Marketing and Communication Office if you need parking access.  The lot will be available Monday afternoon after 3:00 p.m.


· From Clarksburg and directions north:  Follow I-79 South to Exit 99 (U.S. Rt. 33 east).  Follow Rt. 33 East and take the first Buckhannon exit (Main Street Exit).  Exit right onto West Main Street.  Go straight through Buckhannon (four stop lights) to East Main Street and make a left at the stop sign onto College Avenue. The total driving distance from the exit to the stop sign is approximately two miles. The next right is the parking lot for media and general public.  The Rockefeller Center is at the end of the parking lot just past the Ross Football Stadium.
· From Charleston and points south:  Follow I-79 North to Exit 99.  See directions above.
· From Elkins and points east:  Follow Rt. 33 West to the Route 20 South Exit.  Turn left and follow Route 20 to downtown Buckhannon.  At the first light in town, turn left onto Main Street.  Follow Main Street one and a half miles and turn left at the stop sign onto College Avenue.  The next right is the parking lot for media and general public.  The Rockefeller Center is at the end of the parking lot just past the Ross Football Stadium.

If you have additional questions, please contact:  Robert Skinner, Director of Marketing and Communication at West Virginia Wesleyan College (304) 473-8557, (304) 473-8496 (Fax), (304) 678-8257 (cell).  Please note that Wesleyan will be holding Commencement Ceremonies this weekend. 

These are the witnesses that are confirmed for the hearings next week.  We do not yet have the witnesses for ICG.
MINERS SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION:  Kevin Stricklin, district manager; John Urosek, ventilation expert; Ronald Hixon, mine emergency team member, and Richard Gates, district manager and accident investigation team leader
WEST VIRGINIA OFFICE OF MINERS' HEALTH, SAFETY AND TRAINING:  Brian Mills, inspector-at-large; Doug Conaway, former director WV MHST; John Collins, mine inspector; John Scott, mine inspector; Bill Tucker, assistant inspector-at-large; Eugene White, district inspector; John Meadows, surface inspector; Mike Rutledge, instructor, and Monte Hiebe.

April 27, 2006

Thanks to many of you who have called to ask about the plans for the media center at the upcoming Sago hearings at Wesleyan College.  We are pulling together a site for you to get credentials in advance and will have that ready soon.  In the meantime, here is some information you may need to know about the media center and the hearings.

Hearing Agenda
While we do not have a confirmed witness list, this is the tentative agenda for the hearings. 
Tuesday, May 2
9 a.m.
Opening Statement by J. Davitt McAteer, Chair
Statements by Governor Joe Manchin, MSHA's Ray McKinney and W. Va. Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training's James Dean
Statements by Legislative Panel

9:45 a.m.
Panel 1:  Statements from Family Members
10:45 a.m.
Panel 2:  MSHA and WV MHST activities prior to Jan. 2, 2006
1:15 p.m.
Panel 3:  Jan. 2, 2006, Explosion and Initial Mine Rescue
ICG/Mine representatives
Panel 4:  Jan. 2, 2006, WV MHST and MSHA Explosion and Initial Mine Rescue
WV MHST and MSHA representatives

Wednesday, May 3
8:30 a.m.
Opening comments from J. Davitt McAteer
Panel 5:  ICG Independent Investigation and Initial Findings
Panel 6:  MSHA and WV MHST Investigation of Sago Mine Explosion
Closing Comments

There will be breaks and lunch scheduled into both days.  The Wesleyan College Cafeteria, located adjacent to the Campus Center, will be open for meals on both days.
As you can see, specific time schedules are not set for the Tuesday afternoon and the Wednesday panel presentations.  These will be determined as the hearing progresses.  Each panel includes presentations by witnesses and question/answer sessions. 

Media Center
The Media Center for the hearings will be in a classroom adjacent to the Campus Center and second floor hearing room.  Media arriving at the campus will see signs directing them to parking and to the registration/entrance to the Media Center and the Hearing Room.  Television satellite trucks will have the circle parking in front of the Wesleyan Chapel available for set up.
The center will be open Monday, May 1, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. if anyone is arriving early and wants to check in.  Otherwise, the center will open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It will remain open in the evenings as reporters need it.
The Media Center is set up in a classroom that is wireless.  We will have a fax machine in the room and access to a copier near the center.  In addition, the room will have a closed-circuit television so that reporters can continue to watch the proceedings while they are in the center. 
The center is only a few steps away from the hearing room and the media seating section is just inside the door to the hearing room.

The center is being staffed by members of the West Virginia Wesleyan College, Mine Safety and Health Administration and W. Va. Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training communications teams.  They will be able to assist you during the hearings. 

Media at the Hearing
The hearing room seats about 250 people and will be set up with seating sections for the witnesses and head tables, Sago miners' families, general public and the media.  We have set a reserved section for the media to assure that you will have seating for the two-day proceedings.
There will be a mult-box at the speaker's stand for the witnesses who are speaking so that reporters can plug into that for accurate sound.  Also AP will have a still photographer at the hearings both days; the photographer will file photos throughout the proceedings from the Media Center.
We are still working on arrangements for video cameras in the hearing and hope to have a pool camera set-up. 

Questions and Requests
If you have any questions, please send me a note at cgresham@wvtourism.com or call me at 304-558-2200, ext. 347. 

Caryn Gresham

March 9, 2006

Mine Safety Technology Task Force Named

            James Dean, acting director of the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, today announced the names of West Virginia mining industry members who will serve on the Mine Safety Technology task force.  This six-member team will, as directed in the agency’s emergency rules, provide technical assistance to the Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training as it implements the requirements of the emergency rule governing protective clothing and equipment.

            “This agency worked with the Governor’s Office and industry associations to select a team that has experiences in underground mining and mine safety issues,” Dean said.  “We are confident they will support our efforts to expedite the introduction of additional safety equipment into our state’s mines.”

            Under the emergency rule, the task force includes three members from the United Mine Workers of America and three members selected by the West Virginia Coal Association.

            The employee representatives are Theodore B. Hapney, Gary Trout and Stephen Webber.  The coal operators’ representatives are Dale Birchfield, Terry Hudson and Todd Moore.

            “This task force is being asked to begin its work immediately so that it can meet a challenging study review and deadline,” Dean said. “We believe we can work together in this process to support Governor Manchin’s urgent request that we ensure our miners are given the best safety equipment and technology available today.”

The team is charged with studying the commercial availability and capabilities of self contained self rescuers, emergency shelters/chambers, wireless communications devises and wireless tracking devises as required under the emergency rule.  The task force also will study issues related to the implementation, compliance and enforcement of the safety requirements of the emergency rule. 

            The task force has 90 days from the Feb. 28 effective date of the amended emergency rules to issue a report to the director of the W. Va. Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training. 

Mine Safety Technology Task Force


Dale Birchfield is the president of Kingston Resources, a subsidiary of Riverton Coal.  His office is located in Kingston WV and he is responsible for management of the company’s underground mine and prep plant operations in West Virginia.  He holds degrees from Glenville College and West Virginia Institute of Technology.

Theodore Hapney of Reedy WV has 22 years of experience in West Virginia’s mining industry.  He began his career in the coal industry in 1974 and held several positions in underground mines.  He is a certified electrician and has served as president of his local UMWA union as well as chairman of the local organization’s mine and safety committees and on the COMPAC.  He is currently an international representative for the UMWA.

Terry Hudson is the safety and training director for Appalachian operations for Peabody Energy and his office is located in Charleston.   A Marshall University graduate, Hudson has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in occupational safety and health.  Hudson has more than 30 years of mining experience, with 27 years as a certified mine foreman and mine rescue team member and trainer.  He has oversight for Peabody’s safety, compliance, health and emergency preparedness programs in West Virginia and western Kentucky.

Todd Moore is the chief inspector of safety for CONSOL Energy Inc.’s northern West Virginia operations.  Located in Monongah, he is responsible for the company’s health and safety programs in that region.  Moore has 26 years of experience in the mining industry.  He is a graduate of Fairmont College with a degree in mining.

Gary Trout of Leivasy WV is an international representative for the UMWA.  He began his career in the coal industry in 1973 and has held multiple positions in the underground mining industry and is a certified electrician and coal mine safety inspector.

Stephen Webber of Belington WV is retired from the coal industry.  He worked in the underground coal mine industry and as an assistant safety director for the UMWA International Union.   Before retiring, Webber served as director of the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training and the director of the Office of Assessment for the U. S. Department of Labor’s Mine Health and Safety Administration.

- March 01, 2006

Public Hearings On Sago Mine Tragedy Set for May 2

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin today announced that the public hearings on January’s Sago Mine Tragedy will be held Tuesday, May 2 on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. The hearings, which were tentatively scheduled to be held March 14 in Buckhannon, were rescheduled for a later date at the request of the victims’ families.

The joint state-federal hearings will be moderated by Davitt McAteer, special advisor to the governor on the Sago and Alma mine tragedy investigations, and will include a panel consisting of representatives of the the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety & Training (WVMHST), state, labor and industry officials. Both MSHA and WVMHST are still conducting investigations into these separate incidents, including interviews and underground inspections, and have not yet completed their findings.

“Several of the miners’ families asked that the public hearings be pushed to a later date to allow the federal and state investigative teams to develop more information. After consultation with investigators and state legislators, I concurred. It’s a complex investigation and, as the miners’ families have said, it’s more important to determine the facts carefully and thoroughly than to act before all the facts are in,” said McAteer.

Mr. McAteer will continue to brief the governor, state legislators, and the miners’ families as the investigations proceed.

“I’m confident that May’s public hearings will be very useful in providing crucial information to the families of these fallen miners,” the governor said. “In addition, it’s important to get mine safety and disaster prevention right, and I’ve promised the miners’ families that we will settle for nothing less. That’s a promise we’ll keep.”

David G. Dye, acting administrator of MSHA, stated, “The families of the fallen Sago miners and the public deserve to know the progress we have made in determining the cause of this disaster.  MSHA hopes these public hearings perform that vital informational function. MSHA’s investigation into the Sago Mine disaster will be thorough, and the full investigative report will be made available to the miners’ families and the public once our investigation is completed.”

February 14, 2006

Governor Appoints WVU Mine Safety Professional To Temporarily Fill Conaway Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin today announced his official appointment of Mr. James Dean to serve as Acting Director of the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (MHST), effective immediately.

Mr. Dean is filling the post being left vacant by the departure of Doug Conaway, who announced last week that he is stepping down as the state's mine safety chief to pursue other opportunities. Dean is currently Director of Extension and Outreach and Associate Director of the Mining Extension Program at West Virginia University (WVU), and will be serving as Acting Director of MHST on a strictly temporary basis until an appropriate search for Mr. Conaway’s replacement can be conducted. 

He will join MHST Deputy Director C.A. Phillips and Administrator Terry Farley in continuing the investigations into January’s mining disasters at the Sago and Alma Mines, as well as the ongoing underground and surface mine inspection schedules.

“The appointment of Mr. Dean during this period of transition solidifies our commitment to the families of our 16 lost miners that West Virginia will continue to make mine safety our #1 goal,” the governor said. “His knowledge, combined with the experience and background of both C.A. and Terry, will allow us to continue in Doug’s absence without skipping a beat until a permanent replacement is found.”

“The Governor made a good choice in selecting Mr. Dean for this position,” said MHST Deputy Director C.A. Phillips. “I look forward to working with him on continuing our efforts to ensure the safety of our state’s coal operations for the workers of West Virginia as well as the entire coal industry.”

As for the current investigations, according to MHST Administrator Terry Farley, “I want to assure everyone that the investigations will continue as planned, as will our dedication to continuing to work together to make our mines as safe as humanly possible.”

Doug Conaway, a 29-year veteran of the mining industry who prior to becoming MHST Director in 2001 served as MHST Administrator of Enforcement and Safety, will be staying on with MHST long enough to assist Dean through the transition. “I am confident that with the appointment of James Dean, and the continued hard work and dedication of C.A. Phillips, Terry Farley and the entire MHST staff, the state of mining and most importantly mine safety in West Virginia is in very good hands,” he said.

Mr. Dean holds an Associate Degree in Engineering Technology-Mechanical, a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology-Mining and a Master’s degree in Engineering of Mines. He is also a Certified Mine Safety Professional (CMSP) through the International Society of Mine Safety and has MSHA IS IU Instructor Certification. His specific areas of expertise are mine safety and mine management. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Holmes Safety Association, and is a member of the Society of Mining Engineers and the Society of Explosive Engineers.

Said Dean, “The MHST team already in place is extremely experienced and professional, and I look forward to working closely with them on the state’s comprehensive mine safety efforts until an extensive search for a permanent appointee can be completed.” 

Feb. 8, 2006

Gov. Manchin announces the resignation of Doug Conaway as Director of WVMHST


CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Doug Conaway, director of the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training (MHST), will soon be stepping down as the state's mine safety chief to pursue other opportunities, Gov. Joe Manchin announced today.

 In December, Mr. Conaway had discussed his intention to move on with the Governor and a plan of transition was to be developed in January.  However, following the Sago Mine tragedy in early January, Conaway agreed to put that plan on hold.  With today’s announcement, the Governor will begin the transition process by proposing a bill to increase the requirements of the Director’s position to include at least one advanced degree related to mine safety.  During the interim, Mr. Conaway will continue in his duties as Director and has agreed to stay on as needed after that during the transition process.

"Doug has truly done a remarkable job as he’s led the response to and investigation of our recent mining accidents,” the governor said.  “I wish him much success in his new endeavors, and appreciate his willingness to assist with the transition of Directors during what is an important time for the agency and the State.  During this transitional and search period we will continue to strive to meet our commitment to the families of our 16 lost miners and work to ensure that mine safety is West Virginia’s #1 goal.”

Prior to becoming MHST Director in 2001, Conaway served as MHST Administrator of Enforcement and Safety. A 29-year veteran of the mining industry, he also has served in a variety of roles with regional and national mining industry and mine safety organizations. He holds Master’s degrees in both Safety Management and Occupational Safety and Health Engineering.

Feb. 1, 2006

Gov. Manchin calls for a stand-down on mine safety after two miners’ deaths

The following is a statement released by Gov. Joe Manchin this evening regarding the three separate coal-mining accidents that resulted in two fatalities:

“Today has once again been a difficult day for our State’s miners, their families and our mining industry. Out of respect for family members who have not yet been notified, I will not speak in specifics.  But I can confirm that we have had accidents at three separate coal mines, two underground mines and one surface mine that have resulted in two fatalities.

As a result of these three incidents, all of which occurred within just the last few hours, I am calling on the industry to cease production activities immediately and go into a Mine Safety Stand Down.  This means that starting with the current shift, and each new shift after that, the mine companies, supervisors, and the miners themselves are to engage in a thorough review of safety procedures before any work is to continue.

Today, I have also called on our Federal MSHA colleagues, and they immediately agreed, to send additional mine safety resources to West Virginia to participate in activities related to the stand-down. In addition, while each mine in the State is currently scheduled to be inspected every three months, we will immediately begin the process of inspecting every mine in the State and their equipment, conditions, engineering plans, safety procedures and safe work practices.  My office is also in the process of filing emergency rules tonight that are the next step in implementing the mine safety legislation that was passed by the Legislature last week.

While the last month has been more trying for our State than anyone could have ever imagined, West Virginia remains committed to putting the safety of every one of our miners first and foremost above all else.

 We will continue to work with labor and industry leaders, and the members of our Legislature in this effort.  But tonight, our hearts and prayers, and the hearts and prayers of every West Virginian, go out to the families of the two men that were lost today.”

Feb. 1, 2006

West Virginia mine safety regulation updates per new legislation

Visit:  Regulation Updates

Jan. 26, 2006

Gov. Manchin signs new safety legislation into law

Gov. Joe Manchin today signed into law mine safety legislation, introduced and approved by the West Virgnia Legislature earlier this week, that represents the first major step toward ensuring that West Virginia’s mines are the safest in the nation.

Senate Bill 247 will make underground mining safer by requiring rapid response to mine accidents, electronic tracking equipment on miners working underground, and additional portable air stations/supplies in underground mines.

Jan. 21, 2006

Rescuers discover bodies of two miners at Aracoma Mine in Logan County

Mine rescue teams today discovered the bodies of two Logan County miners who were trapped since Thursday night (Jan. 19) by a conveyor belt fire at the Aracoma Mine near Melville in Logan County.

Jesse Cole, district manager for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the two miners likely died quickly because of the intense heat and carbon monoxide generated by the blaze.

"We have found the two miners we were looking for. It appeared the two miners were trying to make a valiant effort to get outside,'' said Doug Conaway, director of the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, announced the finding at about 4:45 p.m.

The two miners, Don Israel Bragg, 33, of Accoville, W.Va., and Ellery "Elvis" Hatfield, 47, of Simon, W.Va., had worked in the mine for five years. Conaway said 10 members of that 12-man crew escaped that portion of the mine at joined with another mine crew to leave the mine.

Jan. 9, 2006

Gov. Manchin selects Davitt McAteer as special advisor to monitor Sago Mine investigations

Gov. Joe Manchin today announced that Davitt McAteer, former assistant secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor and a noted authority on mine safety, has agreed to serve as a special advisor to the governor on the investigation into last week’s Sago Mine Tragedy in Upshur County.

The governor also announced that his administration would join with the federal government to hold open public hearings on the accident and its aftermath, and the miscommunication that added so horribly to the victim’s families suffering, upon completion of the traditional state and federal fact-finding period.

In his special advisory role, Mr. McAteer will serve as the governor’s personal advisor on the investigation and its processes. He will also serve as a consultant to state officials who are conducting the official investigation along with federal officials, as well as the public hearings.

Today’s developments are in no way intended to duplicate efforts that are already ongoing, but are simply meant to add additional resources to the fact-finding mission that is already in place and give a voice to those personally affected by this tragedy.

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