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Families of deceased miners from the Crandall Canyon mine tragedy in Utah testify before a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. - 


Scott Jagow: This morning, Congress takes up a new bill that would improve mining safety. It's strange -- Congress just passed a mine safety bill a year ago after the tragedy in West Virginia. But of course, we've had another tragedy since then. Here's Steve Tripoli.

Steve Tripoli: Twenty-two legislators rushed to co-sponsor this bill. It gained new urgency after August's Crandall Canyon tragedy in Utah. The bill speeds up introduction of safety measures like improved underground communications.

But University of Pennsylvania mining expert Walter Licht says Congress is still lagging in some ways:

Walter Licht: I think they should emulate what other nations have done, where through national legislation it is mandated that safety chambers are placed on all the underground gangways of the mines.

This bill would have mine operators start installing safety chambers. But not until June of next year at the earliest.

Licht says other countries have had the chambers for years, and that U.S. mine operators have been resisting for a single reason:

Licht: It's cost. Cost.

But he says every new mining tragedy erodes the cost argument.

Licht: Slowly but surely, corporations get convinced that actually there are cost savings.

Particularly when every tragedy triggers a wave of costly lawsuits.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.