Carter said pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung disease, is on the rise again, especially among younger miners.
"They are breathing too much coal dust," Carter said. "It is a silent killer. They are not on this list. A lot of miners are on their deathbeds and we don't even know about them."
Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper asked, "Why in the world would you have to argue for a safe workplace?"
Carper also called for stronger enforcement of labor laws and prevailing-wage requirements, especially on projects operated by contractors working for larger companies.
Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, said the Legislature should pass stronger legislation to protect worker safety.
"We will work to live," Poore said, "but we will not die to work."
Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw, who grew up in Tipple, a Wyoming County coal town, said, "We were always aware of the danger of mining coal. Going to school, people were always concerned about safety in the mines."
Perdue said, "You never know when your time is up."
He then read a list of explosions that killed 550 miners at the Monongah Mine in 1907, 78 miners at Farmington No. 9 in 1968, 12 miners at the Sago Mine in 2006 and 29 miners at Upper Big Branch in 2010.
Perdue also mentioned the Fayette County Hawks Nest Tunnel project, along the New River, that caused at least 764 workers to die from acute silicosis in the early 1930s and the Willow Island cooling tower collapse, near St. Mary's, that killed 51 construction workers in 1978.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.