By Mike Nolting
November 14, 2021 - The 78 miners lost in the 1968 Farmington #9 explosion will be remembered virtually Sunday at 1 p.m.
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts made the decision to go virtual for the second year in a row due to coronavirus concerns.
“The Farmington #9 disaster still reverberates through the UMWA and the entire coal industry,” Roberts said. “The families of those who died that day have not forgotten their loved ones; the union has not forgotten our lost members; and every coal miner working in America today enjoys the benefits of a safer and healthier workplace because of the ultimate sacrifice those 78 miners made that day. We will never forget them.”
International UMWA District 31 Vice President Rick Altman said remembering these workers is an important part of understanding how they changed the industry.
“They helped pave the for safety standards that we have today, they are true heroes,” Altman said.
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 signed into law by President Richard Nixon provided for increased inspections, the possibility of closing unsafe mines, stricter limits on coal dust, improved ventilation, roof supports, and methane detection and provided compensation to miners suffering from black lung.
After the Farmington tragedy, widows, children and family members of the miners demanded change from lawmakers.
“They stormed the government at the federal level, at the state level and because of their voice the standards for the mine act were set,” Altman said.
Despite the decline in the industry, Altman said mining coal will always be a part of the West Virginia culture.
“Our history is steeped into the bowels of the earth, and you can’t take that from anybody,” Altman said.