Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Another Mining Disaster

This may seem like a month for mining disasters. But it happens too often to be a coincidence. As the AP reports:
Though the cause of the blast was not known, the operation run by Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co. has a history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane gas, safety officials said.
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Massey Energy, a publicly traded company based in Richmond, Va., ... ranks among the nation's top five coal producers and is among the industry's most profitable. It has a spotty safety record.

In the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.

The New York Times adds:
For at least six of the past 10 years, federal records indicate, the Upper Big Branch mine has recorded an injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations. The records also show that the mine had 458 violations in 2009, with a total of $897,325 in safety penalties assessed against it last year. It has paid $168,393 in safety penalties.
Although the exact cause of the latest disaster is not yet known, the Times reports that a United Mine Workers spokesman's "current theory was that the explosion might have been caused by a buildup of methane gas in a sealed-off section of the mine. A similar type of explosion occurred in the 2006 Sago mining disaster, which left 12 miners dead after trapping them underground for nearly two days."

Just last month, Massey Energy bought a rival coal company, further reducing competition in the energy market. The company paid $960 million.

That was a deliberate corporate choice. Although Massey Energy has one of the worst safety records in the nation, it chose to spend its profits on another corporate acquisition rather than improving mine safety.

Corporate greed over worker safety, Wall Street avarice taking the world economy to the brink of destruction, irresponsible bank lending run amok, oil and coal corporations outright buying congressmen and senators, federal financial regulators secretly using taxpayer money to soak up worthless brokerage assets, municipalities driven to bankruptcy's doorstep by "nomadic thievery"...... Something has gone seriously wrong with America's moral compass.

And this has consequences. This week, it was the lives of twenty-five or more miners. Next week, it could be yours.

minor edit 04-06am

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