Posts Tagged ‘mining’

DSCF8945 UBBMemorial

According to the New York Times,

Although [Donald L.] Blankenship now lives in Las Vegas, his primary residence was once in Mingo County, where he grew up and built a mansion with a helipad in one of West Virginia’s poorest communities. He piped in clean drinking water to his home even as neighbors sued Massey for poisoning the local wells.

 

Since April 2010, I’ve been writing about the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 out of 31 miners at the site.

Today, I’m pleased to report that the former chief executive of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, has been indicted on charges including conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and securities fraud. Blankenship could face up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

That’s good news. However, as Ken Ward Jr. reminds us, coal mining continues to kill people, “most notably the workers who toil to mine it.”

Politicians and media pundits often conveniently forget that fact when they’re chattering away about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on coal-fired power plants or the latest study showing climate change’s impact on sea level rise.

Major mining disasters get a lot attention, especially if they involve heroic rescue efforts, with worried families gathered at a local church and quick-hit stories about long lists of safety violations and inadequate enforcement.

But most coal miners die alone, one at a time, either in roof falls or equipment accidents or — incredibly in this day and age — from black lung, a deadly but preventable disease that most Americans probably think is a thing of the past. Coal-mining disasters get historic markers. Black lung deaths just get headstones.

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In the world imagined by neoclassical economists, workers are simply free to stay at or leave their jobs. What doesn’t exist in their models is a worker who tries to do the right thing—and then suffers the consequences.

Mackie Bailey [ht: db] is one such worker—a Kentucky miner who provided information about dangerous practices at an underground coal mine in Harlan County where a man was crushed to death in June 2011 (for which the company and three supervisors pleaded guilty in federal court).* Bailey is now facing a complaint filed by the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing for taking part in the dangerous activities he reported to state and federal regulators.

To Bailey and his attorney, that’s an injustice, not just because supervisors ordered Bailey to do unsafe work, but because his information helped convict the people responsible.

“They’re trying to punish the whistle-blower,” said Bailey’s attorney, Tony Oppegard, who previously worked as a federal mine-safety official and as a prosecutor in the state mine-safety agency.

 

*The photo above shows Bailey operating a roof-bolting machine at the Manalapan Mining Co.’s P-1 mine in 2011.

Israel's Vision for a Palestinian State

Special mention

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I just took a memorable trip to Harlan County, Kentucky—a region with a rich history and crunching poverty.*

 

The latest battle in Harlan County is over mountaintop removal, which is already dominating the landscape and looming over communities across the border in Virginia:

 

*The median household income in Harlan County (according to the Census Bureau, for 2006-2010) is $26,582 (compared to $41,576 for Kentucky) and the poverty rate is 30.7 percent (compared to 17.7 percent for Kentucky)

Workers’ strikes continue to expand across the South African economy, especially in the mining and transport sectors.

Only in America

Posted: 21 September 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

 

Only in America is someone allowed to say with a straight face that coal mining is a cherished “way of life.” And only in America does that same person—a coal-industry executive—get to pretend he’s a miner, complete with bib overalls and a hard hat.

Heath Lovell is vice president of River View Coal, not a miner. Over the past two years, he and his wife have donated $21,400 to candidates for federal office, including to Mitt Romney and Rand Paul.