Gov. Joe Manchin


CHARLESTON -- In the days following the Sago tragedy, Davitt McAteer, a native West Virginian and noted mine safety expert, volunteered to come to the forefront and help our state with our overall investigation and the process of improving safety in our mining industry.

During a July 19 meeting at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, I joined the families of the 12 Sago Mine victims and the lone survivor of this horrible tragedy, Randal McCloy, members of the State Legislative Committee established to conduct an inquiry into the Sago mine disaster, and Mr. McAteer for the formal presentation of his independent report on the Sago Mine explosion and subsequent investigation.

The release of this preliminary independent report on the Sago tragedy is part of our efforts to fulfill a promise that I made to the families in the early morning hours of Jan. 4, that we would leave no stone unturned in our efforts to make West Virginia's mines safer; ensuring that their loved ones did not die in vain. This report shares a lot of information with the families, and makes important recommendations that will improve the safety of every mine and every miner. We also promised that an open hearing process would be part of this investigation – and as you know, those hearings were held at West Virginia Wesleyan College in May.

I know that there are still a lot of questions about Sago that need to be answered, and we are still looking for those answers. In the six months that we have been working together, we have shed more light on the mining industry as a whole so that the entire world now has a different view of the importance of this industry to our nation. I can assure you that the State of West Virginia will move forward, and move forward swiftly to protect miners and workers in every workplace in our state. That's my goal, my promise, and my commitment.

I want to thank Davitt and his team for their dedicated efforts during the past six months in putting this comprehensive report together. I also thank the members of the West Virginia Legislature for their support throughout the investigation, and their efforts that have helped make West Virginia a national safety leader.

This report gives us a guideline from which we can enhance the safety of our mining industry. We will continue to evaluate the recommendations made in this report, as well as the recommendations prepared by the Legislative Work Group and Mine Safety Task Force, which include many members from our mining communities who uniquely understand the mining industry. The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training will also continue to work with their federal counterparts at MHSA to conclude their official investigation and report as well.

The premise that we work with in West Virginia is this: we can tell you the cost of a piece of mining equipment or a ton of coal, but we cannot tell you the cost of a human miner -- because he or she is priceless. It is critical that we move forward, working together, with this premise in mind.

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