A US House panel has approved sweeping mine and workplace safety reforms prompted by the blast in April that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia.

The safety bill is set to increase penalties for serious mine safety violations, make it easier for the government to shut down problem mines and offer more protection for whistle-blowers.

According to the bill, mines closed for violations would have to continue paying its employees during the closure.

The bill would also sharply increase civil and criminal penalties, strengthen whistle-blower laws and require mining companies to fix violations immediately, reports The Associated Press.

But miners have opposed the bill saying it focuses more on stiffer penalties without correcting flaws in how the Mine Safety and Health Administration applies the rules.