Mining safety advocate sounds off on latest mine disaster

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Mining disasters over time have prompted plenty of people to look more closely at the profession and the dangers workers face each day when they go into the mine.

The West Virginia mine where 25 workers died Monday, had several, previous violations.

It's that alone, that's prompted one expert to sound off on mining's, overall safety.

Tony Oppegard, a local mining safety advocate, says this latest disaster should serve as warning sign to prevent future accidents by encouraging mines around the country to adopt stricter safety standards.

Lexington-based attorney Tony Oppegard has testified before Congress urging coal mines to enact safety policies he says could prevent disasters like the recent one in West Virginia.

He says the unfortunate truth is that too often these catastrophes have to happen before changes can be made.

"All mine safety laws are written with the blood of miners. They're all born out of disaster."

The West Virginia disaster has prompted reaction from public leaders across the country.

Kentucky governor Steve Beshear said in a statement, "Mine safety must always be one of our highest priorities."

He points out the recent addition of inspectors in the Bluegrass.

"The added positions," he says, "mean Kentucky has the necessary inspectors to meet mandated inspections."

Oppegard agrees that Kentucky's strict inspection policies should be adopted nationwide.

"What we really need now is to do some things that prevent those disasters from happening in the first place, and that's why I'm talking about six inspections per year on the federal level. The more frequently you have inspectors in the mines, the more likely they are to spot problem areas."

Oppegard's other key criticism of the company that owns the West Virginia mine is it's history of opposing union representation.

He says because mine jobs have become more difficult to find, workers need safety advocacy outside of their employers.

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