|In 2015, top MSHA officials met with miners in the Gibson|
North mine at Princeton, Ind. (AP photo by Timothy Easley)
The uptick in fatalities was reported July 31 by Gary Bentley, a retired miner, in The Daily Yonder. Relatively few miners have written about their experiences underground, so Bentley's occasional contributions to the Yonder give valuable insight. He writes:
As an underground miner, I do know that miners often put themselves at risk with no pressure or persuasion from the company. I have done it more times than I can count, but I was lucky enough to not suffer any serious injuries. I also know that as market values change and profits begin to dwindle, many companies become more lax with safety initiatives and often have to reduce the amount of preventative maintenance done on equipment. All of that does result in an increased likelihood for accidents. I also know that many times mine managers would work out deals with state and federal inspectors to avoid fines and tickets, and sometimes to completely avoid a safety inspection at all. The industry is corrupt from the top down, and it’s no news for anyone who has worked in it.Tim Loh of Bloomberg has a story about the uptick, with an example of a Kentucky miner who died at a mine that was found to have several violations. With the story is this chart (click to enlarge):
The problem now is our political climate. We are seeing a steep decline in the coal market values and demand. There are companies cutting benefits to miners and cutting cost wherever possible to continue earning a profit. Now there are politicians and lobbyist groups working to cut environmental and safety regulations in an attempt to keep the coal companies in business, making a profit, and, in turn, keeping that black gold flowing into their political campaigns and pockets.