U.S. legislators are getting impatient with federal mining regulators.
Congress passed legislation giving the Mine Safety and Health Administration additional resources and powers, as well as tougher penalties, to enforce safety after accidents in Kentucky and West Virginia last year killed 19 miners.
In hearings yesterday in Washington, angry senators wondered why mining regulators hadn't used the tools it has been given to prevent more deaths underground. Six miners were trapped in Utah's Crandall Canyon mine on August Sixth, and three rescue workers later were killed trying to reach them.
U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia said that when disaster struck at the Sago Mine last year, it was described by some as an anomaly. He told regulators that the Utah disaster and other mine tragedies make it clear that such occurrences are not anomalies.
MSHA head Richard Stickler said his agency's commitment to enforcing the mine safety and health laws has never been stronger.