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Appalachian coal miner Gary Fox’s widow, Mary Fox
 Chris Hamby/Center for Public Integrity

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday that it plans to issue a new rule to address recent disclosures that lawyers representing coal companies have withheld medical evidence from miners in black lung benefits cases.

The announcement comes after a recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity detailed a prominent law firm’s decades-long record of keeping key evidence from sick miners, sometimes causing them to lose benefits cases.

The Labor Department offered little detail about the rule but said its purpose was to “ensure that coal miners have full access to information about their health and to enhance the accuracy of entitlement determinations.” The department said it aims to release a proposal by January 2015.

John Cline, one of the few lawyers who regularly represent miners in federal black lung benefits cases, called the department’s announcement “a big step and an important step.”