Trump’s Top Commerce Secretary Pick Is a Billionaire Who Owned Coal Mine Where 12 Miners Were Killed
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump made a big promise to coal miners, many of whom have lost their jobs as the industry collapses. “We’re going to get those miners back to work,” he said during his victory speech in May after securing the GOP presidential nomination. “Let me tell you, the miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania? they’re going to start to work again. Believe me. You’re going to be proud again to be miners.” Trump went on to win the nation’s top four coal-producing states: Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. (Clinton won the fifth, Illinois.)
But Trump’s commitment to out-of-work miners appears to have faltered, as his top pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross Jr., a New York billionaire who owned the now-defunct Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners were killed in an explosion in 2006. The blast and ensuing collapse trapped 13 miners for almost two days. Only one survived. At the time, it was the deadliest mining disaster the Mountain State had experienced in nearly four decades. (It was eclipsed in 2010, when an explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine, also in West Virginia, killed 29 miners.)
In 2004, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, a division of the Labor Department, slapped Sago with 140 violations. Apparently, those citations didn’t force Ross to improve his mine’s safety: In 2005, MSHA cited the mine with even more violations, 208 total. Of those, 96 were considered “significant” or “serious and substantial.” Barely into the following year, on Jan. 2, 2006, the deadly blast occurred.
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