February 6, 2006

Pennsylvania orders new mine safety inspections

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
on Monday ordered enhanced safety inspections of the state's 77
underground mines following the deaths of 16 coal miners this
year in neighboring West Virginia.

Rendell also urged mining companies to heed a national call
from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for
"timeouts" during which production is suspended while miners
review safety procedures with management.

The new inspections, to be done within the next 30 days,
will be in addition to regular checks on mine safety conducted
by state officials. The Pennsylvania mines, which employ around
5,100 people, extract coal and industrial minerals.

"In combination with the MSHA's efforts, the work of our
state inspectors will provide a thorough inspection of the
sensitive areas of our underground mines, including the areas
where significant hazards could exist," Rendell, a Democrat,
said in a statement.

Inspections will focus on safety issues raised by the West
Virginia incidents. They will include ventilation as well as
plans designed to prevent roof collapse through the use of
bolts and cement, according to Kurt Knaus, press secretary for
the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Pennsylvania officials will also conduct "intensified"
inspections on cleanups, electrical equipment and rock-dusting

Twelve miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning at West
Virginia's Sago Mine on January 2 after an underground
explosion. Four more miners have died in separate incidents in
the state since, prompting Gov. Joe Manchin on February 1 to
order all mine production to cease until all mines conduct a
safety review.

The fatalities make 2006 the deadliest year for West
Virginia mines in more than a decade.

The federal mine safety board last week asked all U.S. coal
mines to conduct "Stand Down for Safety" in which miners,
managers and safety officials would review safety procedures
for about an hour at the beginning of each shift on Monday.

MSHA also sent more mine inspectors to West Virginia, the
second-largest coal-producing state after Wyoming.

George Ellis, president of the Pennsylvania Coal
Association, whose members mine 90 percent of the state's
underground coal, said his group would support the governor's
order and did not anticipate it would result in increased costs
to producers.