Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Underground coal mine disaster could focus more attention on stripmines, mountaintop removal

The media has covered the underground mine disaster since yesterday, but one more point will come up: coal companies may be able to argue that stripmining and even “mountaintop removal” is actually “safer”.  This disaster occurred just days after the government announced new restrictions on mountaintop removal. Coal companies are quick to point out that we depend on the labor of their employees for our lifestyles.

But coal companies here, as with previous accidents, are on the hook for their safety practices. In this case, there is talk that there was an accumulation of methane gas, and there had been multiple safety citations. Some are questioning whether the company should be in business.

I remember that in the film “October Sky”, the young Homer’s coal miner father developed a lung disease, and a brother was willing to go work in the mines because it was his family responsibility!

A mother told her adult son, "I don't want you to ever go back into the mine again", and the son said "This is what I do."  This accident apparently happened with a technique called "long wall mining" where the mountainside collapses into the mine behind the miners.

I also recall back in the 1970s that the Sierra Club had argued that some kinds of underground mining for some minerals, including uranium, would be immoral because it could not be done without taking the lives of workers.

I visited an underground mine in Beckley, W Va in 1991.

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