Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mine deaths hit record low, but miner's memoir is a reminder of the dangers still underground

We didn't plan it that way, but we should have remembered: In today's Courier-Journal, the undersigned reviews Face Boss: the Memoir of A Western Kentucky Coal Miner, and at the top of the Louisville newspaper's section page (and at the top of the Lexington Herald-Leader's front) is the annual Associated Press story about mining fatalties -- which declined for the second year in a row in 2009, to a record low of 34. (AP photo by George Frey: Face boss Carrey VanBuren watches a continuous mining machine cut coal at the Horizon mine near Helper, Utah.)

"That was down from the previous low of 52 in 2008," writes Roger Alford, now AP's sole correspondent in the state capital of Frankfort and former correspondent in the coalfield town of Pikeville. Coal mines accounted for only 18 of the deaths, "down from 29 in 2008; and 16 were in gold, copper and other types of mines, down from 22 in 2008. Most involved aboveground truck accidents on mine property," which shows the increasing role of surface mining.

"Most news of coal these days is above the ground: strip mining, including mountaintop removal, and coal-fired power plants that contribute to global warming. But in Kentucky and most Eastern coal states, most coal is still produced by underground miners, who work in what Michael Guillerman calls “a dark and remarkable world” that few Americans know."

That's the start of the book review, which is complimentary. I wish it could have been longer, to repeat Guillerman's point that mine operators prepare for federal inspections and usually run considerably less coal when inspectors are underground. That point was made in the AP story by Kentucky's Steve Earle, United Mine Workers of America international vice president for the Midwest: "I can say without reservation that the safest day coal miners have is when inspectors are in the mines."

1 comment:

dezmembrari auto said...

I'm from Romania and recently produced a serious accident in the mine. These things are not easily forget. Miners working in unsuitable conditions and risk their lives daily