Interviews

Transcript: Wilbur Ross on Calls for Mine Safety Checks

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," February 2, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: They're calling it a "stand-down for safety." Coal miners, not only in West Virginia, but throughout the country Thursday, urged to check safety above ground before going underground — this after 16 miners in West Virginia alone died in four separate accidents already this year.

With me now, in his first interview on this dramatic development, the man who owns a lot of those mines, Wilbur Ross. Wilbur is the chairman of the International Coal Group (United Mine Workers say that they are up on this. They wanted a representative, or several, I think, Wilbur, to accompany investigators to some of these mines that have been deemed a safety risk, if you will. And you have been against that, or your company has been against that. Why is that?

ROSS: No, what we were against was the following.

Under the Mine Safety Health Administration rules, workers have the right, if two or more of them get together, to designate a third party to represent the miners in the investigation. In the case of the Sago Mine, which had about 96 employees, more than 90 of them said that they wanted three fellow miners to be their representatives.

Two, apparently — and the reason I say apparently is, the UMWA has refused to share with us the names of the alleged two — but, at most, two said they would like the UMWA to represent them. So, we found ourselves in a situation where 90 percent of our workers wanted different representation from the UMWA. That is really what that was all about.

CAVUTO: Could I ask you this, though? I'm wondering whether this has made you rethink the wisdom of investing in this industry. You're likely going to be slapped with a lot of lawsuits, if you haven't already. And those lawsuits are going to be pricey. And is it worth it?

ROSS: Well, this is a human tragedy, not an economic tragedy.

CAVUTO: I'm well aware of that. I didn't mean to frame it that way, Will, but the fact of the matter is, that is likely what you're facing. What do you think?

ROSS: Well, it could be. Those will take whatever course they take.

Right now, our focus is on trying to do what we can to help the families of the miners and to help improve conditions going forward, to the degree that that's possible.

In terms of the coal industry, it's a very fundamental industry in this country an absolute...

CAVUTO: You stand by it, and you would stick by it?

ROSS: Oh, absolutely.

CAVUTO: OK.

ROSS: That doesn't mean that we can't try to learn something from these tragedies that will help reduce them in the future. But half the electricity comes from coal.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much, Wilbur Ross.

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