The US Congress passed the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 after a massive mine explosion in 1951 killed 119 miners at the Orient No. 2 mine in West Frankfort, Illinois. The Act gave the Bureau of Mines the authority to annually inspect certain underground coal mines. It also included anthracite mines, but excluded surface coal mines and all operations employing fewer than fifteen people.
The new Act made mine ventilation mandatory in order to control methane gas levels, and required dusting of mine walls with a limestone compound to control coal dust. The Bureau was responsible for issuing violation notices and imminent danger withdrawal orders. Mine owners received civil penalties for noncompliance with withdrawal orders, or for the refusal to admit inspectors onsite; such penalties did not apply to noncompliance with the safety provisions. In 1961, Congress amended the Act to encompass small underground coal mines, previously excluded. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 amended the 1952 Act and developed stricter safety standards.