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MSHA News Release No. 99-0512
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Tri-State Group Also To Look at Fatalities in Region
MSHA, State Mining Officials Meet in Beckley Today on Black Lung Efforts

Officials from the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) join their counterparts from the states of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia in a joint meeting today in Beckley, W.Va., to seek increased cooperation on further efforts to eliminate black lung disease. In the meeting, held at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, MSHA also seeks cooperative assistance today from the State officials to address the increasing percentage of mining deaths occurring in the tri-state area. Eighty-two percent of the fatal coal mining accidents in the United States this year have occurred in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.

"Last year, we signed a cooperative agreement with Kentucky to work together on stamping out black lung," McAteer said. "Today we're re-affirming that agreement and discussing the possibility of working more closely with Virginia and West Virginia as well."

Under the agreement with Kentucky, MSHA and state officials conduct quarterly meetings to discuss health and safety issues, particularly matters pertaining to black lung. Also, information provided to MSHA concerning plans for controlling respirable coal dust at individual mine sites are shared with state mining officials so that they are kept up-to-date on all plan requirements. MSHA inspectors and educational field services personnel along with State officials distribute respirable dust information during their mine visits and inspections.

Participants at today's meeting are also being asked to develop the "Tri-State Fatal Accident Reduction Initiative," a joint program that brings together the resources of the state agencies and MSHA to target hazards that cause fatal accidents in coal mines.

"An increasing percentage of all U.S. mining accidents are occurring in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky, and this is quite alarming," said McAteer. "We need to explore any and all possible methods which we may undertake jointly to reverse this trend and reduce coal mining deaths in this region."

In 1996, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia accounted for 48% of all fatal coal mining accidents. In 1997, that share rose to 57 percent, and to 78 percent in 1998. So far in 1999, nine of the 11 fatalities in coal mining nationwide, or 82 percent, have occurred in the tri-state area.. The specific areas include eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and southern West Virginia.

"We are renewing our cooperative stance with the state mine enforcement personnel and giving ourselves the opportunity to exchange ideas, concepts, and practices," McAteer added.

"This group will not only examine all mining hazards common to this region, but will develop a specific course of action to eliminate these hazards."

The tri-state group will look closely at known mining hazards such as use of powered haulage equipment, machinery hazards, electrical hazards and roof control hazards. Participants will be asked to develop a cooperative arrangement that would allow the agencies to combine resources to address and reduce the hazards for working miners.

"We can only be more effective in our efforts to combat injuries and illnesses in the mining workplace when we work cooperatively together," said McAteer.