WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., introduced a bill Thursday calling for more federal research into mine communication resources.

The Senate bill mirrors what Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has proposed in a bill that the House passed this week. If signed into law, the measure would focus federal research into underground communication and tracking devices.

The Mine Communications Technology Innovation Act calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to figure out how to get around the limits of communications device used now by miners.

The institute would work with other federal agencies and the telecommunications industry to identify research priorities, and grants would be made available to speed development.

The deaths in August of six miners and three rescuers at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah have brought increased attention to mine-safety issues.

"Our miners deserve a safe working environment that includes effective and reliable communications systems," Webb said in a statement. "The recent tragedies in Utah and West Virginia have shown that reliable tracking and communications systems can mean life or death."

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