Mine safety suit dismissed

By John O'Brien | Aug 24, 2006

WASHINGTON - On the same day three lawsuits were filed in Kanawha Circuit Court over the Sago Mine disaster, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., threw out a lawsuit filed by coal miners demanding that the government do more to ensure their safety.

Filed June 8 after Congress overhauled mine safety regulations in response to the Sago explosion that killed 12 miners in January, the United Mine Workers of America's complaint against the Mine Safety and Health Administration says, "Proper use of self-contained self-rescuers has been a long and recurring problem within the coal industry.

"The training that must be provided to miners does not afford miners an opportunity to experience an SCSR as it will operate in an emergency."

The UMWA requested that random checks be made of SCSR units at mine sites. Also, it sought emergency training classes for all underground workers.

The three lawsuits in Kanawha Circuit Court allege that four of the 12 SCSR units provided were defective and worthless.

Federal Judge John D. Bates said the lawsuit didn't meet the legal requirements to force a court order because safety policy is created at the government's discretion.

"The loss of lives, and the risks miners presently face, weigh heavily in public discourse and are taken seriously by this court," Bates wrote. "But the tragedy of those events, and the need for greater protection described by Plaintiff, cannot substitute for the requirements of the law."

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