Some Officials Concerned Over New Mining Laws

Mine rescue teams have a tough job finding trapped coal miners underground in an emergency, but now some say new laws could make just practicing for that job even more difficult.

TECO Coal has been performing mock mine disasters at its mines across the region to test for weaknesses in case of an emergency, but it came about because of the recent federal law.

"The law is good. It addressed the changes that needed to go on especially after Sago and the events that went on there," said Dave Blankenship, Director of Safety and Environmental Affairs at TECO Coal.

The law requires rescue teams to conduct two drills per year at every mine and for every mine to have two certified rescue teams.

Blankenship says it costs money for rescue teams to practice and that may be too much for small and medium sized coal companies.

"For each mock disaster at Perry County Coal, the cost is about a half million dollars," Blankenship said.

The new law also requires rescue teams be located within an hour of each mine. Kentucky rescue teams already meet that requirement.

"But the overall character of the changes that were brought about by the miner act are good," Blankenship said.

MSHA has approximately 18 months to develop the regulations and the law will go into effect no later than December 2007.

Blankenship says as of right now, no changes are going to be made to the mine act before it goes into effect.


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