The Spark

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

12 miners died:
“consistent with industry practice”

Jul 24, 2006

Twelve miners died in the Sago Mine in West Virginia on January 2. They survived the explosion but ran out of air. One miner survived and later said four of the miners’ air packs didn’t work right.

Now an investigative report from the West Virginia governor’s office reveals a second way the miners should have survived. The part of the mine that exploded was sealed off. The explosion should never have affected the 12 miners at all! But the seals blew apart.

The seals were not concrete as has been used in the past. They were of a newer foam-based block, used by mine companies because it is cheaper, lighter, easier to move. The governor’s report said the foam-block seal was “improperly constructed” and the block was “pulverized” by the explosion.

The mine owner, ICG (International Coal Group), issued a statement: “ICG believes that the seals were built in compliance with the MSHA-approved plan using construction techniques that are consistent with industry practice.”

Of course ICG can only “believe” that, because its executives, board of directors, and wealthy shareholders never endanger themselves in a mine! They rest in grand offices and count the money the coal miners load into their accounts.

Doubtless the foam-block seals were built “consistent with industry practice,” since every mine operator – like big businesses everywhere – cuts every corner possible in their constant pressure for more production at less cost. The lowest level of safety they can get away with will be perfectly “consistent with industry practice.”

Those working in government agencies responsible for worker safety find their budgets reduced, staffs cut, and their regulations watered-down by politicians.

The top administrators, confident of being well taken care of by the industry they supposedly regulate, occupy themselves by preparing alibis for the future disasters that mining for profit will bring.