Deaths Push Calls for Mine Safety Overhaul

Politicians, National Mining Association and United Mine Workers of America to push for changes

The owner of the Sago Mine, International Coal Group Inc., isn't waiting for federal action. President Ben Hatfield says he's already formed a team to pursue change.

"We are absolutely going to get better and safer, and better-positioned to react to crisis, regardless of what state and federal agencies say," Hatfield said.

ICG's team will focus on the latest research on mine communication systems and air supplies.

The UMW supports requiring oxygen caches throughout mines, as Peabody Energy and Consol Energy Inc. do at some of their larger mines.

"It's always been our position if it takes you eight hours to walk out of a mine, then there ought to be eight hours of oxygen for you to do that," said Phil Smith, spokesman for the union. The two men who died inside Alma were equipped with oxygen canisters that typically produce about an hour's worth of breathable air.

"We need Congress to look at this. We need state legislatures to look at this," he said. "But we need action."


Associated Press writer Sue Lindsey contributed to this report.


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