CHARLESTON - Gov. Joe Manchin has announced that West Virginia will host an International Mining Health and Safety Symposium this April.

It will mark the first international gathering of mining industry leaders and safety experts to discuss mine safety since the January passage of landmark mine safety legislation in West Virginia and the introduction of measures on both the state and federal level to make mining safer.

The Symposium, to be held April 20-22 at Wheeling Jesuit University, will focus on issues such as how mine equipment is approved and how to accelerate adoption of state-of-the-art technologies, both from traditional sources and by adapting technologies developed for other applications by agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"I've made a commitment to do everything possible to make West Virginia's mines the safest in the nation," Manchin said. "This symposium - the first of its kind - will move us closer to that goal."

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), the federal agency charged with conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illnesses, will co-sponsor the symposium together with the state.

"As MSHA moves forward with its new emergency regulations to better protect miners' lives, we see this symposium as an important opportunity to push forward on life-saving technologies and best practices," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary for mine safety and health at MSHA.

The forum will provide an opportunity for technology developers and equipment manufacturers to display and demonstrate their products. Representatives of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety & Training (WVMHST), the West Virginia Coal Association (WVCA), the National Mining Association (NMA), the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and other organizations have agreed to participate in reviewing technologies and discussing deployment strategies.

"This is an important step in focusing national attention on critical mining safety and health needs that must be met promptly and effectively," said John Howard, M.D., director of NIOSH, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mine health and safety and mine rescue experts from Canada, Australia and other nations will also be invited to participate.

"We must pursue the technological innovations and improvements that every West Virginia miner deserves," Manchin said. "In the wake of the multiple tragedies we have experienced this year, we can do no less - for the protection of miners and for the peace of mind of their families."

Wheeling Jesuit University will host the symposium under the auspices of its Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center. MSHA's Approval and Certification Center, which approves new equipment for mines, is located nearby in Triadelphia; MSHA's Safety and Health Technology Center is in Bruceton, PA; and NIOSH conducts mining safety and health research in Morgantown and Bruceton.

"I am gratified that we can help in the state's efforts to improve protection for miners and to assist mine rescue teams," said Father Joseph R. Hacala, President of Wheeling Jesuit University.

J. Davitt McAteer, Vice President for Sponsored Programs at Wheeling Jesuit University and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, currently serves as a special advisor to the governor on the investigations into the Sago Mine and Alma Mine Disasters that cost the lives of 14 of the 16 West Virginia miners who have died on the job this year.

"We owe it to the victims and their families to do all we can, as rapidly as we can, to prevent such needless tragedies," McAteer said. "This symposium will be one way to honor our responsibility to miners in West Virginia and nationwide."

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