Mine group ad mourns miners' deaths and pledges to improve mine safety

The trade association that represents coal companies released a print ad Monday mourning the 29 miners who died in the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion last week. The National Mining Association’s ad also pledges to “continue the work” to protect miners. See the ad here.

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of the 29 miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch coal mine accident,” the ad states. “We know our words today cannot soften the wrenching experiences of the families, friends and communities of these proud individuals.”

Congressional Democrats say they will re-examine mine safety laws in light of the devastating explosion, the deadliest coal mine blast in four decades.

The first questions are likely to come on Wednesday at a House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing ostensibly about coal and climate change. Executives from three mining companies are expected to be asked about mine safety. Officials from Massey Energy, which owns the Upper Big Branch mine, are not scheduled to attend Wednesday's hearing.

The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee has also pledged to hold hearings on the disaster. The disaster is likely to bring new focus on legislation backed by the chairman, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), to strengthen mine safety laws updated as recently as 2006.

The National Mining Association opposed the Miller bill because it said it could create confusion and delay safety improvements called for under the 2006 mine safety act, which Congress passed following an explosion at Sago mine in West Virginia that killed 12.

The mining trade group's ad said the latest disaster had "cast a shadow over mine safety and the significant progress that has been accomplished in recent years."

“In the coming days and months, the National Mining Association will work with public and private partners to understand what happened in Raleigh County and to continue the work that must be done to protect the safety of America’s miners.”

Meanwhile, Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis is calling for a moment of silence at 3:30 p.m. Monday to honor the miners who died in the blast and their families.