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Mine blast probe 'weeks and probably months'

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 12:34 p.m. ET
Federal mine safety investigators are preparing to evaluate the potential causes of Monday’s deadly West Virginia mine blast, an effort that could take months, the government's top mine safety inspector said Wednesday.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said it will dispatch a team of agency inspectors and Labor Department lawyers to West Virginia to evaluate all aspects of the accident, including potential causes and whether the mine’s operator, Massey Energy Co., was in compliance with federal health and safety standards.

The investigative team will include MSHA employees from outside West Virginia and will be led by Norman Page, a 25-year agency veteran from Kentucky who has served as a mine inspector, and assistant district manager and has participated in previous accident investigations, the agency said. The team also includes MSHA employees from Virginia, Kentucky and headquarters in Washington, D.C. and two trial attorneys from the Labor Department’s Office of the Solicitor. MSHA is part of the Labor Department.

The team's final report will summarize their findings, identify the causes of the accident and how it unfolded, the agency said. Potential violations at the mine will be cited at the conclusion of the investigation.

"At the end there’ll be a showing that there was some pretty heavy enforcement going on to use the tools in the Mine Act to bring about compliance at the mine," MSHA Director Joseph A. Main told CBS's "Early Show." The 1977 Mine Act set established mine safety and health regulations still in use today.

"This is going to be a pretty extensive investigation where every rock will be turned over, so to speak, to find out what went wrong," Main said, adding later that "it’s going to be a matter of weeks and probably months to get the investigation thoroughly conducted."

A little over half of MSHA's roughly 2,400 employees perform inspections of the nation's coal mines, gravel pits, quarries and gold and silver mines. Hundreds of new inspectors have joined the payroll since the deadly 2006 Sago (W.Va.) blast, expanding MSHA's inspection force by more than 26 percent.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 7, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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As the grandson and son of West Virginia coal miners, let me first say WV Congressman Nick Rahall is a crooked weasel, loyal only to his wallet, Senator Byrd and Senator Rockefeller are not even from West Virginia. Rockefeller is a carpet bagger that bought his election originally. None of the three have any real knowledge of coal mining, yet all three shoot their mouths off and grab a microphone at any disaster. My prayers are with the families of the miners, in this horrible time for them. Senator Byrd should keep his mouth shut or the staff that is speaking for the senile old man. Automatically assuming the company is to blame as Byrd has done, along with most of the media, is wrong. Every miner working under ground has some responsibility for safety. Natural disasters can occur in a mine under ground as easily as anywhere else. A seal to an old mined out section breaking from a shift in the earth's crust or from vibrations from mining activities could easily have allowed methane to rush into the mine. The long wall miner in use at this mine is equipped with a device to shut it down if safe methane levels are exceeded. Any type of spark can set off a methane explosion, just as natural gas in a home can be ignited. Again, my prayers are with the brave families of the miners involved. Don't blame the company unless it is proven to be at fault. These are men they work with.

Posted by: good_angel | April 7, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Red state = who cares?

Posted by: fireball72 | April 7, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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