U.S. Labor Secretary tours first coal mine since taking office in Taylor County

U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia talks one-on-one with 5 News
U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia talks one-on-one with 5 News(WDTV)
Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GRAFTON, W.Va (WDTV) - U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia toured Leer Mine Complex operated by Arch Resources Inc. in Taylor County on Wednesday. It was his first visit to a coal mine since being sworn in as Labor Secretary in September 2019.

News media were not invited on the tour of the mine with Scalia, but he talked one-on-one with 5 News after his visit about what he saw, the safety risks facing coal miners during the pandemic and whether the Mine Safety and Health Administration can keep up with its required inspections amid COVID-19-restrictions.

Today I traveled more than 300 feet underground to tour Arch Resources’ Leer Mining Complex in Grafton, West Virginia....

Posted by Secretary Eugene Scalia on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Josh Croup: Secretary Eugene Scalia, thank you so much for taking a couple of moments with us today.

Sec. Scalia: My pleasure.

Josh Croup: Your first visit at a coal mine since becoming Labor Secretary just about a year ago. What were your takeaways from today?

Sec. Scalia: This was sort of a late Labor Day trip for me. I was with the vice president on Labor Day but I wanted to see a mine for a while and, you know, it’s an important part of American industry. These are, you know, critically important jobs. Mining is an important part of American history, too. So what I saw today was awesome.

The long wall is an amazing thing to see in operation, the continuous mind machine too and a chance to just sit and talk to the miners about the work they do, some of the thoughts in their mind. it’s really been a great visit. One of the things that struck me was the focus on safety here. Obviously, workplace safety is so important, never more important than right now with COVID, and really good to see the emphasis on that on the part of the company and also the workers

Josh Croup: Well let me ask you about safety. The Mine Safety Health Administration falls under the Department of Labor. How is the federal government making sure that miners are safe from everything else that they face in their normal work life but also from COVID-19?

Sec. Scalia: Well the Mine Safety Health Administration very closely regulates mining companies underground mines are inspected four times a year. They’re around checking on safety really throughout the year. And with respect to COVID, we’ve put an added emphasis there on providing guidance across industries at the department and altogether we’ve put guidance for more than 20 industries about things that workers and companies should do to stay safe there. And that that includes other industries, too. If we see steps being taken that are not consistent with safe practices necessary to avoid the COVID spread, that’s something we’ll certainly follow up on.

Josh Croup: And it’s one thing to have guidelines, but how do you enforce them? And is it the federal government’s place to try and step in and enforce that, or would you leave that up to the individual mining companies?

Sec. Scalia: Well, mining companies certainly have a responsibility to keep their workers safe, including when there’s a risk from COVID. And I have to say that i have never seen American businesses as focused on safety in the workplace as they are right now with COVID. But if companies fall short of those obligations, then we have enforcement responsibilities and we have enforcement tools. We have brought citations and we’ll continue to bring citations against companies that aren’t taking the steps that they need to keep workers safe. We have that authority as to mining under the Mine Safety and Health Act. We have it as to industries generally.

Josh Croup: Is MSHA keeping up with all of the inspections that it needs to be, at the pace that it needs to be, since March when states shutdown and when things started to change? Have they been able to keep pace?

Sec. Scalia: We will in the course of the year meet the statutory obligations that we have in terms of how frequently expect. Obviously COVID has made a number of different tasks more complicated, including at times doing workplace inspections. But we’re certainly out there doing our job and we will make our inspections this year.

Josh Croup: Secretary Scalia, thank you very much.

Sec. Scalia: Thank you.

After Scalia’s visit to Grafton, he went to Bridgeport to visit a local MSHA office and talk about their work.

Copyright 2020 WDTV. All rights reserved.