Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mining Disaster

By now, everyone knows that through some kind of accident, 12 miners died in a mine with over 200 safety violations. First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families and friends of those who died.

In many respects, mining is a dangerous occupation. No mine is totally safe just because of the terre is not always firma, and so many things can happen. Methane pockets, cave-ins, equipment failure, and other hazards abound. There has been a long history of safety improvements that has reduced the danger, but will never eliminate it. In contrast, 5000 miners in China lost their lives in mining accidents last year versus 23 in the United States.

Besides the faux pax of the mining company on relaying wrong information on the number of casualties, the focus of the investigation will center on the 208 safety violations. Now realize that a safety violation could be something as little as someone not wearing a hard hat to a faulty spark arrester on a loader to an improper procedure for clearing out an accumulation of methane in the mine. However, no details have been released just yet, but I'm sure that all the violations will be splashed all over the news.

The questions that I would have would be:

  • If the violations were so numerous & severe, why was the mine not shut down by the mine inspectors?
  • If there were serious safety concerns, why didn't the miners complain, or if they were represented by a Union, safety grievances filed with the company?
  • And last, what caused the accident?

I'm sure that the news media and the attorneys will make the information known in the near future.

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