CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The coal industry's struggles with a shortage of emergency air packs seem to be getting worse.
At least more 16 coal companies have been cited for not having enough of the devices to meet West Virginia standards.
That brings the total number of mines cited since last month to 49 -- almost one in five of the state's approximately 255 underground mines.
All ordered the devices long ago, but are caught in a manufacturing backlog.
Meanwhile, federal regulators say just 15 percent of U-S mines have enough air packs to meet new federal standards. The National Mining Association estimates coal companies have put 86-thousand of the devices into service, but are waiting for another 100-thousand to be delivered.
Alpha Natural Resources spokesman Ted Pile says the supply issue is becoming very difficult. Two of the Abingdon, Virginia-based coal company's mines were cited last month. Pile says that prompted Alpha to buy a second brand of air packs, which complicates mandatory training among other things.