West Virginia Coal Mines

Legislative History

Public Law 61-179 creates the Bureau of Mines. Federal safety and health roles are limited to research and investigation.
Under Public Law 77-49, Federal inspectors obtain right of entry to mine property to make annual or other inspections and investigations in coal mines. No safety or health regulations are mandated.
Public Law 80-328 includes the first Federal safety standards for bituminous coal and lignite mines. The law allows Federal inspectors to notify mine operators and State mine agencies of violations. There are no enforcement provisions, and the law expires after one year.
Congress passes Public Law 82-522, the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act. Underground coal mines are to be inspected yearly. Anthracite mines are included under the law. However, all surface coal mines and all operations employing fewer than 15 people are exempted.
The 1952 Act includes mandatory safety standards for underground coal mines with more stringent standards for "gassy" mines. Federal inspectors have the authority to withdrawal orders in situations of imminent danger and to issue notices of violation. Orders of withdrawal are mandated for less-serious violations that are not properly corrected.. State inspectors are allowed to enforce Federal standards under a State plan system.
Public Law 87-376 extends the coverage of the 1952 Act to small underground coal mines. It provides for issuance of withdrawal orders in cases or repeated unwarrantable failures to comply with standards. The law expands the scope of education and training programs.
Public Law 89-577, the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966, specifies procedures for developing safety and health standards for metal/nonmetal mines. These standards can be "advisory" or "mandatory." Underground mines are to be inspected every year and Federal inspectors can issue notices of violation and orders of withdrawal. State inspectors are allowed to enforce Federal standards under a State plan system, and the law addresses education and training programs.
Congress passes Public Law 91-173, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. Underground coal mines are to be inspected four times each year, and surface mines are included under the provisions of the Act. Although there is no longer a distinction between "gassy" and "nongassy" mines, gassy mines are to receive additional inspections. Miners can request inspections, and State enforcement plans are discontinued.
The law strengthens safety standards for all coal mines and adopts health standards. It also incorporates procetures to develop new health and safety standards. Mandatory fines are established for all violations. Criminal penalties are attached to "knowing and willful" violations. The law institutes a training grant program and benefits are provided to miners who are disabled by black lung..
An administrative action creates the Mine Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) as a new Agency of the Department of the Interior. MESA assumes health and safety enforcement functions formerly carried out by the Bureau of Mines.
Congress passes Public Law 95-164, the Federal Mine Safety and Health act of 1977. It places coal and metal/nonmetal mines under a single piece of legislation. It retains separate health and safety standards for coal and metal/nonmetal operations. The law moves the enforcement agency to the Department of Labor and renames it the Mine Safety and Health Administration(MESA).
The 1977 Act requires four annual inspections at underground coal mines and two annual inspections at all surface mines. The law eliminates advisory standards for metal/nonmetal mines and discontinues State enforcement plans.
The law creates provisions for mandatory training of miners and requires mine rescue teams for all underground mines. It also increases the involvement of miners and their representatives in health and safety activities.

Page designed January, 1999 BY Gracie Stover