Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coal industry could have prevented mine deaths with investment in devices, weekly's editorial says

As the rescue effort at the Crandall Canyon Mine of Murray Energy Corp. in Utah remained halted, leaving six miners trapped and probably dead, The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., continued to offer some of the sharpest criticism about the current state of mine safety in the United States.

In this week’s edition, an editorial listed the names of the 63 miners killed nationwide since Jan. 1, 2006, as well as the six miners still missing in Utah. “It's a terrible toll -- 70 miners in all -- and one that should be unacceptable, because fatality-by-fatality reviews show that most of these deaths could have been prevented by a combination of systematic risk assessment, conscientious mine management, diligent regulatory enforcement, and adoption of technologies that are taken for granted elsewhere,” the editorial said.

The editorial suggested key links between recent coal mining deaths: a lack of advanced emergency breathing and communication devices in mines. The Eagle said miners aren’t given adequate training with breathing devices, called Self-Contained Self-Rescuers, and that the models in use in these mines have been rendered “obsolete.” In addition, the editorial said miners lack a system for two-way communication in mines. Legislation passed after the Sago Mine disaster of January 2006 has mandated the installation of such systems, but not until 2009, and the editorial said progress has been slow on that front. (Read more)

Meanwhile, a friend of one of the miners trapped in the Crandall Canyon mine confronted mine co-owner Bob Murray yesterday at a funeral for one of the three rescue workers killed at the mine, The Associated Press reports. The man "handed Murray a dollar bill" and said, "This is just to help you out so you don't kill him." AP reports, "Murray's head snapped back as if slapped." Here is CNN video.

The episode "revealed more than just the frustration of people in this mining community in central Utah's coal belt, where most still speak in whispers when criticizing the officials whose businesses pay their bills," AP reports. "Critics are now openly calling the mine a disaster waiting to happen and pointing fingers at Murray Energy Corp. and the federal government as the agents of the tragedy." (Read more)

Today, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Murray and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration made a risky change to the mining plan of the previous owner, contrary to statements by Murray. MSHA approved Murray's proposal in only seven business days, Robert Gehrke reports. (Read more)

No comments: