First, in 2006, there was the Sago explosion that killed 12 miners. Then, just a few days later, there was the Aracoma mine fire that killed two more.
And just last week, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion killed 29 miners.
Manchin, on Wednesday, asked for all underground miners to observe a day of mourning Friday in honor of the 29 fallen miners and to commit the day to making their work place as safe as possible.
Manchin asked that all West Virginia underground mine operators cease production for one day.
The "Day of Honor and Mourning" gives the operators, miners and the state the opportunity to focus solely on mine safety, while mourning for their fallen coal miners, Manchin said in a press release issued during the press conference in the Governor's Reception Room in the State Capitol in Charleston.
"I am asking every underground mine operator and miner to go to work on that day and commit to one day focused completely on making their workplace as safe as possible in honor of the miners we lost at Upper Big Branch. No other family should experience the loss that the UBB families are experiencing."
Manchin said no miner should ever have to fear going underground.
"Not at all, they should not be in fear," Manchin said. "Safety should be first and foremost and if there is something of a serious nature that hasn't been adhered to, they should have the right to stop and shut it down."
Manchin said he's not just asking for a day to stop production, he is wanting operators and employees to focus strictly on safety measures they've been taught and on safety inspections during their regular work shifts.
The governor signed an executive order stating that immediate action is warranted to identify and remedy conditions in underground coal mines in the state that create a risk of combustion or explosion. The order specifically encourages each operator of an active underground coal mine in West Virginia to take whatever actions are needed to ensure the mine's compliance with health and safety standards.
"This was a deep mine explosion and those can be horrific," Manchin said. "In a deep mine explosion, there's no way to protect anybody in the mine. All you can do is prevent it from happening. What we're trying to do is, in their honor, re-evaluate everything we do and the practices we use to make it safe. Not one person should have to work in unsafe conditions. Everyone should expect to go home at night or in the morning."
In addition, Manchin has ordered immediate state inspections of underground mines, starting with the mines that have had the greatest number of violations for combustion risks.
"Mine health and safety laws are in place to protect our coal miners, but it's clear that a breakdown occurred and we lost 29 miners who should be with us today," Manchin said. "While the state and federal investigations of this horrific accident will be carried out the next several months, I strongly believe that stopping production to focus specifically on mine safety gives our mines and their employees the opportunity to identify problems that need corrected immediately.
"I'm also directing our state mine safety inspectors to turn their attention to mine ventilation, rock dusting and electrical equipment issues that could pose a hazard. They'll start with the mines that have been cited repeatedly for those combustion risks during the last year and take immediate steps to ensure compliance with the law."
Office of Miners' Health and Safety Director Ron Wooten said the Upper Big Branch mine is currently shut down and won't reopen until the investigation into the explosion is complete.
"We don't know what happened, but we're going to work hard to try to find out precisely what happened," Wooten said. "In my 40 years in this industry, this is the biggest thing I've seen, so we've got to find out and it's going to take a while."