CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — There is a troubling new report concerning the safety of coal mines and other mines across the United States, especially in West Virginia, and there are concerns the problems will get worse, not better.
All of this centers around mandatory mine safety and health inspections.
West Virginia is the second-highest coal-producing state in the nation. And most of the neighboring Appalachian States are also significant coal producers. But a new report from the U.S. Department of Labor says the Mine Health and Safety Administration known as MSHA, is not keeping up.
Nearly 1,600 mine inspections were incomplete or inaccurate, from 2018 through 2021.
During that time 92 accidents occurred in mines that were supposed to be non-operational.
Mine fatalities are also way up this year as well, with 17% more than in 2022. A West Virginia lawyer who represents miners blames safety and inspection budget cuts by Congress.
“Sadly, the answer is that the U.S. Congress has made a political judgment to deprive the Department of Labor of enough money, to reach all of the mines in America,” said Sam Petsonk, a Fayetteville-based attorney. “The House of Representatives right now, it is actively trying to roll back the clock by over 15 years, to funding levels that will utterly ruin the Mine Safety and Health Administration.”
MSHA sought nearly $28 million for mine inspections this year, but Congress has cut the mine safety budget by six percent.
The attorney says miners simply have to become their own advocates. They can even download a new miner safety and health app, from app stores or the MSHA website. Miners can use that to check mine safety reports or report health concerns they see.