Friday, May 20, 2011
Report Faults Mine Owner for Explosion That Killed 29
The first comprehensive state report on the 2010 Massey Energy’s “Big Branch Coal Mine” disaster in West Virginia by an independent team of investigators, has put the blame squarely on the owner of the mine owners, “Massey Energy,” concluding that it had “made life difficult” for miners who tried to address safety and built “a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable.”
Just as the preliminary findings by federal officials that the blast could have been prevented if Massey had observed minimal safety standards, but Massey was more interested in production and profits than the value of the 29 men’s lives that died that day, on April 5, 2010.
It was Massey’s pattern of negligence that ultimately led to the deaths of 29 miners in the worst American mining disaster in 40 years. For people in the mining industry, the report was surprisingly direct.
The report stated that it was poor ventilation negligence of the mine’s jury-rigged ventilation system was cited for 64 violations just in 2009 alone, equipment whose safety mechanisms were not functioning, lack of water spray designed to eliminate sparks caused by digging the coal, the track duster was often clogged where miners were reduced to carrying rock dust, the diluting substance, out of the mine by hand, and no lime was put down which would have made the coal dust less combustible.
I have heard my own Grand Father, who was a West Virginia Union Coal Miner, tell me that the “combustible coal dust would behave like gunpowder carrying the blast in multiple directions.” The official report stated that explosive coal dust, which had been allowed to accumulate, carried the blast through the mine, killing miners who were far from the original explosion.
The lack of air in the nearly three miles of tunnels, combined with coal dust and fumes, tormented the miners, the report said. One miner, Dean Jones, would come home so exhausted that, the report quoted his wife as saying, “I’d look over at the dinner table and he would be asleep.” “It literally felt like you were melting,” said Michael Ellison, a roof bolter who called in sick the day of the accident. Shortly into the shift, he said, “all of us looked like we had been standing out in a rainstorm, just soaking wet.”
Due to the lack of a union, the workers voice in such matters, miners who tried to remedy the situation were punished. When Dean Jones shut down his section for lack of air, a company boss, Chris Blanchard, “called the dispatcher and told him to tell Dean if he didn’t get the section running in so many minutes he’d be fired,” the report said. Mr. Jones, afraid for his job, complied.
As the largest coal producer in Appalachia, Massey used its leverage “to control West Virginia’s political system,” and through it, oversight agencies. Inspectors, whose job it was to protect miner safety, were cast as “ENEMIES,” the report said, with the company challenging their very legitimacy.
Politicians were afraid of the company, the report said, because the chief executive at the time, Don Blankenship, “was willing to spend vast amounts of money to influence elections.” (I want to interject that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that Corporations have the same rights as individual citizens)
Massey is in the process of being acquired by another company, Alpha Natural Resources, which has said it plans on retraining Massey employees after taking over in June. It has also hired Christopher Adkins, a chief operating officer for Massey, whose role in the disaster was strongly criticized in the report.
So concluded, one of Rush Limbaugh’s daily radio program at this time was spouting off how the “Miner’s Union” did not protect the miners of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. “Yes Unions are worthless!!!” The problem with Rush’s comment was the “Upper Big Branch Mine” was a NON-UNION MINE and the miners had no recourse to have all of the “Mine Safety Sightings And Infractions” addressed by the company; the miners had no voice to protect themselves and 29 good men lost their lives when the mine exploded. RUSH LIES!!!!
So the next time you hear someone bad mouth UNIONS, you can tell them that this ATTITUDE is exactly what killed 29 good family men.