CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Joe Manchin on Wednesday ordered the immediate inspection of all underground coal mines in West Virginia after an explosion last week killed 29 miners and injured two.

Manchin also asked for the state’s more than 200 underground coal mines to cease production Friday to mourn the victims of the nation’s worst coal mining disaster in 40 years.

“I don’t know any better way to honor the miners we’ve lost and the families who are grieving so much,” Manchin said. The economic cost of such a shut down would “take care of itself,” the governor said.

Manchin wants the miners to show up for work, but to help check on safety instead of producing coal.

“If they don’t go to work, they’re not honoring our fallen heroes,” Manchin said. “I don’t think there will be a mine or a miner that won’t honor (them).”

The order tells state regulators to start checking mines that have repeatedly had combustion risks over the last year.

Highly explosive methane gas is believed to have played a role in the April 5 blast at Upper Big Branch mine. The levels of gas have also been a constant problem since the explosion, preventing crews from finding four missing miners for several days and this week keeping investigators from going underground to look for a cause of the blast.

Manchin wants the high-priority mines inspected within two weeks. His order said inspectors who find such risks or other violations can partially evacuate the mine or close it.

Inspectors will start their blitz Friday, looking at electrical installations as well as methane and coal dust controls, including ventilation and the spraying of powdered rock to dilute explosive coal dust.


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