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W.Va. official says drug, alcohol plague mines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Director of Mine Safety Eugene White told legislators Monday that drugs and alcohol are his agency’s “biggest problems.”

White said 550 miners have failed drug tests and temporarily lost their certifications. Of those, nearly 80 have been reinstated, he said. Some 200 others “haven’t done anything,” he said, and will lose their certifications.

The director also talked about safety issues at West Virginia mines, noting his agency now has four mine rescue teams and 88 inspectors, most of whom are retired miners.

“When the industry is booming, it’s hard to get inspectors because they can make $100,000 in the mine,” White said.

Mine inspections are up 40 percent, White said, mostly because the number of operating underground mines has dropped below 100. White said underground mines numbered 268 in 2012 and 123 in 2013.

The meeting barely touched on a nearly 80-page Mine Safety Report that was released last December. Included in that was a report specific to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster which occurred in 2010.

The UBB report found that the explosion which killed 29 miners was “man-made and could have been prevented…

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