West Virginia Names New Mine safety Chief

January 2, 2013

A longtime mine inspector and safety official will now head such efforts in West Virginia, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has appointed Eugene White as director for the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

White most recently has been the agency’s acting deputy director. He’s been with the agency since 2001. He’s also served on the state’s mine emergency team.

“Eugene, a former coal miner, has served the public for many years,” Tomblin said in a statement. “I know that as director he will continue to work tirelessly to improve the safety of coal mines across West Virginia. Eugene has the respect and support of our miners and our companies. He will do a great job.”

White immediately replaces C.A. Phillips, who announced plans this month to retire Monday.

Phillips was acting director and then director for just over two years.

White is the third person to head Miners’ Health, Safety and Training since the April 2010 disaster at Upper Big Branch. Twenty-nine men were killed in the Raleigh County explosion, the worst loss of life at a U.S. coal mine in decades.

The agency’s duties include inspecting all mines and mine facilities statewide, and investigating all serious accidents and fatalities. It also operates four regional mine rescue teams, and recently was called on to step up scrutiny of efforts to keep down explosive levels of coal dust by spreading inert crushed rock. The office was most recently budgeted for $18.5 million that included pay and benefits for the equivalent of 160 full-time employees.

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