Obama: More inspections for safety-troubled mines

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that mines with "troubling safety records" will face immediate inspections to ensure the country will not see a repeat of the Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy.

The announcement was made following a meeting in which Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Mine Safety and Health Administration head Joseph A. Main presented the president with preliminary findings from an investigation into the April 5 disaster in West Virginia that killed 29 miners. The investigation is ongoing.

In his remarks, Obama said he directed both Solis and Main to work with Congress on strengthening existing mining laws and closing loopholes. The president also called for a review into how MSHA operates, and stressed the need to tackle the backlog of contested citation cases before the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. The number of appeals filed by mine operators has increased dramatically since the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 was implemented, a maneuver Obama alleged allows companies to avoid paying penalties or correcting safety problems.

In related news, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) asked on Wednesday for all underground mine operators to cease production for one day on April 16 to focus on safety.

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