Posts Tagged ‘mining’

Chart of the day

Posted: 10 November 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


In the wake of the disaster caused by the dam break at one of BHP Billiton’s jointly owned mines in Brazil, I took a look at the data collection and analysis conducted by Lindsay Newland Bowker and David M. Chambers (pdf) for the Center for Science in Public Participation.

What Bowker and Chambers found is that—in contrast to the prevailing story “that the lower numbers of failures and incidents in the two most recent decades evidence the success of modern mining regulation, improved industry practices and modern technology”—there has been an emerging and pronounced trend since 1960 toward a higher incidence of “Serious” and “Very Serious” failures. In other words, the consequence of loss from Tailings Storage Facility failures has become increasingly greater.

Their conclusion?

The advances in mining technology over the past 100 years which have made it economically feasible to mine lower grades of ore against a century of declining prices have not been counterbalanced with advances in economically efficient means of managing the exponentially expanding volume of associated environmental liabilities in waste rock, tailings and waste waters. In fact those new technologies which do offer better management of mine wastes usually add significant cost and are often detrimental to bottom line financial feasibility. This is evidenced in a post-1990 trend toward un-fundable environmental losses of greater consequence. This interdisciplinary review of TSF failures 1910-2010 establishes a clear and irrefutable relationship between the mega trends that squeeze cash flows for all miners at all locations, and this indisputably clear trend toward failures of ever greater environmental consequence.


Special mention



Special mention

cg55cc179552757 167659_600


Special mention

CMFdWugUMAAtRbs dt.common.streams.StreamServer

Jean Ritchie, who brought hundreds of traditional songs from her native Appalachia to a wide audience and wrote additional songs, especially about the disasters of coal mining—”and in the process helped ignite the folk song revival of the mid-twentieth century—died on Monday at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

Here are the lyrics to her “Black Waters”:

I come from the mountains, Kentucky’s my home,
Where the wild deer and black bear so lately did roam;
By cool rushing waterfalls the wildflowers dream,
And through every green valley there runs a clear stream.
Now there’s scenes of destruction on every hand
And only black waters run down through my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand,
Black waters, black waters, run down through my land.

O the quail, she’s a pretty bird, she sings a sweet tongue;
In the roots of tall timbers she nests with her young.
But the hillside explodes with the dynamite’s roar,
And the voices of the small birds will sound there no more;
And the hillsides come a—sliding so awful and grand,
And the flooding black waters rise over my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

In the rising of the springtime we planted our corn,
In the ending of the springtime we buried a son,
In summer come a nice man, said, “Everything’s fine—
My employer just requires a way to his mine”—
Then they threw down my mountain and covered my corn,
And the grave on the hillside’s a mile deeper down,
And the man stands and talks with his hat in his hand
As the poisonous water spreads over my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Well, I ain’t got no money and not much of a home;
I own my own land, but my land’ s not my own.
But if I had ten million – somewheres thereabouts—
I would buy Perry County and I’d run ’em all out!
Set down on the bank with my bait in my can,
And just watch the clear waters run down through my land!

Well, wouldn’t that be like the old Promised Land?
Black waters, black waters no more in my land!

“West Virginia Mine Disaster” was another of her original songs, performed here by Betsy Rutherford:

And here are the lyrics:

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

It was just about noon, I was feeding the children
Ben Moseley come running for to give us the news
Number eight is all flooded, many men are in danger
And we don’t know their number, but we fear they’re all doomed

So I picked up the baby and I left all the others
For to comfort each other and pray for our own
There’s Timmy, fourteen, and there’s John not much younger
Soon their own time will be coming to go down the black hole

Now if I had the money to do more than just feed them
I’d give them good learning, the best could be found
And when they grew up they’d be checkers and weighers
And not spend their life drilling in the dark underground

And it’s what will I tell to my three little children?
And what will I tell his dear mother at home?
And it’s what will I tell to my poor heart that’s dying?
My heart that’s surely dying since my darling is gone

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

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.