Early on the morning of November 20, 1968, a violent explosion occurred at the Consol No. 9 mine in Farmington, WV. Of the 99 miners underground, 78 perished while 21 survived the explosion and escaped to the surface. This explosion was the impetus for passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.
In response to the mandates of the Act, Congress authorized construction of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy to train mine inspectors and others whose job it was to enforce the law and regulations. A groundbreaking ceremony for the permanent facility adjacent to the Raleigh County Memorial Airport occurred in a heavy rainstorm on July 29, 1971, and a temporary location opened in Beckley, WV on September 7.
It took four years to complete Academy construction. The classroom building was dedicated on April 3, 1976 and the rest of the facility on August 17 – six weeks after the Nation celebrated its 200th birthday.
Congress had created the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) in 1973 as part of the Department of the Interior. In 1977, Congress passed the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977, which combined the 1969 Act with the 1966 Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act. MESA's enforcement activities were transferred to the Department of Labor and a new agency - the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) - was created.
The Academy, however, remained under the Department of the Interior until its transfer to the Department of Labor on July 25, 1979.
For more detail on the history of mine disasters and mine safety legislation, click the presentation below.