"We ought to be using this technology on every sort of mining equipment in any section of the mine where there is gas and dust,'' he said.
The state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety helped develop that proposal, which is also found in the bill co-sponsored by Thompson, and the board would gradually phase in this requirement. The industry supports that approach, said Chris Hamilton, a senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Hamilton said the association was part of a working group consulted by Tomblin administration officials as they drafted the bill. The group also included safety professionals, the UMWA and other elected officials.
"I don't think there's anything in the bill that major objections have been directed toward, at least from industry's perspective,'' Hamilton said.
That would include a drug-testing mandate. While operators don't want the state-run screening to conflict with their own programs, Hamilton said it should help because not all companies test their miners.
Hamilton also said that Kentucky and Virginia have suspended a total of 2,000 miners for failing the states' drug screenings. At least some of those miners are also likely certified in West Virginia, and so could end up working here, he said.
"A number of companies have instituted mandatory drug-testing programs over the past few years,'' Hamilton said. "Not all companies have followed those progressive steps. There's some inconsistency within the industry at the current time.''
McAteer said screenings should be done in an equitable way, so that managers and superintendents are also screened. He said that the UMWA has opposed mandatory testing as an invasion of privacy.
"The question is, what is the testing for?'' McAteer said. "Is it done in a way that addresses mine safety?''