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Underground Chambers May Not Be In Mines For Two-and-a-half Years

WASHINGTON (AP) - It may be two-and-a-half years before the federal government requires underground refuge chambers that could save the lives of coal miners following an accident. That was the estimate heard at a hearing in Washington yesterday.

Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Richard Stickler drew criticism from lawmakers who questioned whether the agency is moving quickly enough. They said proper equipment might have prevented many of the deaths in last year's disasters at the Kentucky Darby Mine Number One in Harlan County and West Virginia's Sago and Aracoma Alma mines that killed 19 men.

Representative George Miller of California scolded Stickler during a hearing in Washington.

Miller and other members of Congress examined a roughly 500-square-foot chamber yesterday that inflated in seconds and has its own air and water supplies, food and medicine. The chest-high chamber can hold about 35 miners for up to 96 hours.

In both the Sago and Darby explosions, most of the victims died when they were overcome by gases, not as a direct result of the blasts.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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