West Virginia law also stipulates that mines have wireless communications and tracking systems which work despite explosions and other accidents. But Stricklin said today that large parts of the network were likely to have been destroyed in the blast.
The mine is operated by a Massey subsidiary, Performance Coal Co., and employs around 200 workers, according to company disclosures filed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
At least three people have died at the mine in the last 12 years, according to the AP.
In 1998, a worker was killed when a support beam holding cement mix fell on him, according to the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration.
In 2001, a worker at the mine died after part of a roof collapsed on top of him, and in 2003 an electrician was electrocuted to death while repairing a shuttle car.
In 2009, Massey, the nation's sixth-largest mine company, agreed to pay $4.2 million in fines for a 2006 accident at another Massey-owned mine in West Virginia that killed two miners. The federal mine safety administration cited the company for 25 violations that the agency said contributed to the deaths.
Last year, Massey celebrated what it called a record setting year for safety and its sixth consecutive year in which Massey's safety performance, based on lost-time accidents, beat the industry average, according to the Massey Energy Web site.
In response to the blast, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis released a statement saying, "The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration will investigate this tragedy, and take action [...]. Miners should never have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood."
ABC News' Cleopatra Andreadis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.