A proposed mine safety law in response to the deaths of 12 miners at the Sago Mine in January was unanimously passed by a Senate committee Wednesday.The bill, called the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said, the MINER Act “is a major step forward for mine safety. This legislation will save lives. It will toughen safety standards. And it will mean fewer families will have to experience the pain that the Sago and Alma families are living with each day.”Besides the Sago deaths, six other miners have died in West Virginia this year, including two at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine in Logan County.
Byrd also said on Wednesday that he believes the deaths at Sago and Aracoma “were entirely preventable” if communications technology, oxygen supplies and better underground mine seals had been in place.Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., urged House leaders to take the bill up quickly after it passes the Senate.“For the sake of the miners who died in the tragic accidents at Sago and Aracoma — and for the sake of the West Virginians and Americans who go into a mine every day — we cannot put this off any longer,” he said. “[House Majority Leader Bill Frist] should take up this bill before the Memorial Day recess. Miners have waited too long — now is the time for action.”