Sago Mine Hearing Scheduled for Jan. 19

The explosion that resulted in the deaths of 12 West Virginia coal miners has spurred a Congressional hearing on mine safety.

The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19, according to Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.

"In Congress, there are tough questions to be asked of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)," Byrd said. "Is enforcement of coal mining regulations tough enough? Are the regulations on the books today current enough to handle the challenges posed by 21st century coal mining? Are mine hazards being minimized? These and other issues demand scrutiny, and the miners' families deserve the answers."

Byrd said he has worked with Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to arrange the mine safety hearing.

Federal and state mining officials, as well as representatives of labor, business and academia with expertise in mine safety, will be invited to testify at the hearing, Byrd said.

"The investigation at the Upshur County mine will tell us what caused that deadly explosion," Byrd said. "But one conclusion is already evident: It's time for the decisions affecting America's miners to be made with their best interests at heart. That should be the legacy of the Sago miners."

Twelve miners died and one was critically injured after a Jan. 2 blast at the Sago Mine in Upshur County, W.Va. MSHA, along with state mine safety officials, is investigating the cause of the explosion.

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