Federal inspectors fanned out across the coalfields over the weekend as part of a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration blitz aimed at underground coal operations with a history of ventilation, methane and coal dust violations.
Teams of up to 10 MSHA inspectors targeted 57 mines in 10 states in a campaign directed by agency chief Joe Main under orders from President Barack Obama, in the wake of the April 5 explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
"The purpose of these inspections is to provide assurance that no imminent dangers, explosions, hazards or other serious health or safety conditions and practices are present at these mines," Main said in a prepared statement.
MSHA did not immediately provide the results of any of the inspections.
Twenty-three of the targeted mines were in West Virginia and another 14 in Kentucky. Eight of them were operated by subsidiaries of Massey, but other major coal producers were also on the list, including large unionized operations owned by CONSOL Energy and Patriot Coal.
Meanwhile, investigations by state and federal officials into the Upper Big Branch disaster were getting started.
On Wednesday evening, MSHA was scheduled to have its first meeting with the families of the fallen miners since the effort to recover any survivors ended late on the night of April 9. Representatives from the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training and independent investigator Davitt McAteer were also scheduled to attend to explain the investigation process to the families.