The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Mine disaster shows bosses’ priorities

Oct 8, 2001

Thirteen miners were killed in Alabama on September 23, the worst mining disaster since 1984. This mine in Brookwood, Alabama, is the deepest coal mine in North America, employing 400 people out of a town of 1500. An explosion on Sunday trapped six people, although three managed to escape. When ten miners went in to rescue the others, a second explosion apparently killed them.

This mine, known for its dangerous methane gas which can explode, is operated by a subsidiary of Walters Industries, a two billion dollar a year mining conglomerate. In 1993, this same mine had seen another explosion which seriously burned four workers. The company had to close the mine due to dangerous areas of heat in 1995. Last year, the Brookwood mine had five incidents in which roofs collapsed or rocks fell on workers there.

Their own statistics prove how dangerous Brookwood’s mine is: this particular mine reported 9.97 accidents with serious, non-fatal injuries per 200,000 hours worked last year. This rate is even higher than the national rate of 8.3 accidents for this type of mine – itself a rate much higher than accident rates in most other industries.

These 13 miners were murdered because of the conscious actions of other people – the owners of the mine. These bosses may not have decided to murder anyone, but they consciously decided to skimp on safety in ways that could only lead to accidents and deaths. The miners are just as dead as if the bosses had set out to kill them.

If there were any justice in this supposedly “just society,” the bosses of the Brookwood mine would be indicted for murder.