Forty years ago today, Richard Nixon signed into law new federal safety guidelines enacted in an effort to make coal mining a bit less lethal. The Federal Coal Mine Health And Safety Act was passed in the aftermath of a 1968 coal mine explosion in Farmington, West Virginia that took 78 lives.
For the first time, the government set standards for maintaining equipment and supplying fresh air to miners. In addition, underground mines were required to be inspected four times per year and all safety violations triggered mandatory fines.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, on December 30, 1970, exactly one year after the new legislation passed, tragedy struck again in the form of an explosion at the Hurricane Creek mine, 5 miles outside Hyden, Kentucky.