Thursday, November 20, 2008

Newly discovered memo sheds light on historic mining accident 40 years ago today

A newly discovered memo helps explain how 78 men died in a landmark mine accident 40 years ago. "That memo — and sworn testimony taken after the disaster — suggest that no one had to die on Nov. 20, 1968," write Bonnie Stewart of West Virginia University and Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Broadcasting for National Public Radio. Why that memo was ignored for years remains unclear.

The memo and miners' testimony shows how poorly the underground coal-mining industry was regulated at the time of the accident. The mine fire at Farmington, W.Va., was the first big mine disaster to get national television coverage and focused a spotlight on the horrid conditions in the mines. The events and the coverage spurred new federal and state laws. In 1968, annual deaths from mine accidents was roughly 250, today that number averages about 32. (Read more)

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