West Virginia Approves First Coal Mine Shelters

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -West Virginia has approved five emergency shelters for use in underground coal mines.

Today's approvals are a bit of a milestone for the coal mining industry, which has kicked around the notion of shelters for decades. West Virginia became the only state to require them with a law passed after the January 2006 Sago and Aracoma mine disasters.

West Virginia State Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training Director Ron Wooten says the approvals start a whole new page for coal mining.

The law requires all underground mines to provide air-tight shelters. Mine operators have until April 15th to submit their shelter plans.

Operators will be able to choose from two inflatable shelters and three metal structures. All meet state requirements to supply enough oxygen, food, water and other necessities to keep miners alive for at least 48 hours while awaiting rescue.

While the shelters provide extra protection, Wooten says he hopes miners never need them. He says miners should exhaust every possibility for escaping an accident before sheltering underground.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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