Drug Testing for Miners in West Virginia

In the wake of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster, drug testing for miners in West Virginia was pushed to the spotlight. This is despite separate investigations showing no evidence that drug use played a major role in the tragedy that claimed 29 lives in April 2010. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is pushing a mine safety bill that includes mandatory random drug testing for miners. Many mine operators are already conducting drug screening programs voluntarily. The bill reportedly does not contain provisions for drug treatment for those who may test positive. On the other hand, Celeste Monforton, a public health expert who served on the governor’s independent panel, revealed that drug use played no role in the tragedy. He said: “I view it as a distraction. I read all of those autopsy reports, and there was nothing in the tox reports for any of those men showing that they were abusing or using drugs.” Advocates of mine safety and families of the victims of the Upper Big Branch disaster have also called for industry-wide reforms in U.S. coal-mining.

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