The American Friends Service Committee is saddened by the news from West Virginia of the methane explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal that has left 29 miners dead and two injured.

AFSC has a long and deep history with families in the mining areas of West Virginia, dating back to the 1920s. When a fire killed two miners at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Mine in 2006, Beth Spence, AFSC's coalfield specialist, served on the governor’s investigatory committee, which found grave deficiencies in safety standards of Massey Energy and which helped lead to sweeping new federal mine safety legislation. In the wake of this most recent tragedy, safety standards at Massey Energy are once more being questioned.

Our staff in West Virginia have made contact with people in the community where the explosion occurred and will be following up to see what role we may play in providing support for the families and in renewing our commitment to coal mine safety.

If you are interested in following the breaking news, Coal Tattoo, written by Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward, is closely tracking the events on the ground.

We join the nation in grieving the loss of the miners and extend our deepest condolences to their families.