Feds Hire More Than 300 New Coal Mine Inspectors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The federal agency responsible for mine
safety has hired more than 300 inspectors over the past two years
to scour the nation's underground coal operations for unsafe
working conditions.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has been beefing up
its work force in an effort to increase inspections after a series
of mining disasters from West Virginia to Utah.

A report last year by the inspector general found that MSHA had
failed to carry out inspections at 107 of the 731 underground coal
mines operating in 2006, or 15 percent of the total.

Forty-seven miners were killed on the job in 2006, one of the
deadliest for miners in more than a decade. Six miners and three
attempting rescues also died in 2007 at the Utah Crandall Canyon
mine, while 15 mining fatalities have been reported nationwide
since Jan. 1.

MSHA chief Richard Stickler said Monday the agency has 750
inspectors with the 322 new hires. But, because of resignations and
retirements, the new hires represent a net increase of 163

Stickler said he also has embarked on a plan to ensure
inspectors complete required visits to every coal mine in the
nation, aided by $10 million earmarked for overtime pay this year.

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