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Senate OKs House bill to erect child labor memorial in Fairmont, recognizing Monongah mine disaster

MORGANTOWN – The state Senate set the stage Thursday to erect a memorial to child labor and child workers who died on the job in Fairmont.

Senators unanimously approved HB 3312, the bill to erect the memorial. The bill says the site was chosen for its proximity to the 1907 Monongah mine disaster, with 362 known killed along with an uncounted number of children.

A construction commission will be established. The commission will chose a design by Dec. 31 and solicit bids. The Division of Labor will provide $500,000 but the commission may also seek grants and other funding. The monument is expected to be completed by Nov. 15, 2023, with a dedication Dec. 6, the anniversary date of the disaster.

Fairmont would own the monument and attached greenspace, but if it was unwilling or unable to do so, ownership would go to the state Department of Arts, Culture and History.

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said, “There is no more appropriate place to put a memorial like this … than Marion County.”

Miners in camps were paid by the ton and routinely cheated by the companies, he said. They brought their children, as young as 10, into the mines to bring out as much tonnage as possible to make ends meet.

One result of the disaster, he said, was that the unions were able to get into mining contracts that kids were not allowed back into the mines, and the monument also memorializes that victory. He hopes mine companies will help pay for the memorial.

It passed unanimously and the House has been notified.

House action

HB 4025 provides for a five-year severance tax exemption for extracting and producing for commercial benefit rare earth elements and critical minerals, starting July 1 this year.

Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, wondered why they were voting on a tax exemption on something not yet being extracted or taxed. Finance chair Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said its meant to open the door for possible new economic development.

The vote was 94-4 and it goes to the Senate. All local delegates voted for it.

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