As a citizen of the United States, we hear a lot of information on the news involving what coal mines used to be like and how third world countries are still practicing these once used unsafe strategies to obtain coal. However, have any of you wondered what the United States does in Virginia and other various states to obtain the countries coal? Along these lines are coal mining practices even safe, and how are techniques of the “first world” countries better then surrounding third world ones? If you dig through some books or surf the web, you can find hundreds of articles relating to explosions in various states that result in unsafe and unethical decisions. On April 5, 2010, twenty-nine people lost their lives, and many others were injured in a coal mining accident in the state of Virginia of the United States, that was preventable if only the people working followed instructions accordingly. (infoplease.com)
At approximately 3:02 pm, on April 5, 2010 a massive explosion occurred at the Upper Big Branch South Mine in West Virginia. According to the United States Government, the explosion was preventable and had occurred because the management team did not practice the procedures and guidelines of the Mine Act. The management team broke four of the procedures in the Act that allowed the manager to work in the way he did, and allowed the workers to follow along without questioning authority (extremely common in factory-like jobs). The Big ranch South Mine broke the following: intimidation of miners, illegal procedures for advance notices, failed to comply with the Training Plan manual and failed to keep record books on the hazardous wastes that the had underground. (msha.gov) The United Sstates government stated that the explosion that had occurred started when natural gases seeped within the tail drum of the mine. When that gas mixed with the oxygen and other chemicals within the air, flames immediately enlarged. From the fire a methane explosion occurred which led to the coal dust exploding.
MSHA.gov stated that the operator did not follow four essential tasks in the mine that would have prevented the coal dust explosion. First the operator did not measure the methane concentration throughout the mine that day (mandatory under Mine Act). Secondly, the operator did not abide by he approved ventilation plans, which resulted in the oxygen and chemicals to mix and sit within the mine. Thirdly, the operator did not comply with the roof control plan. (msha.gov) And finally, the operator did not ‘rock dust’ the mine properly. Since the operator didn’t follow these small tasks, he also did not make sure that the actual mine was clear of excess coals, and the dust it created. Thoughts? Would you have fired this person when you found out things like this were slipping or would you have turned your head, and let those procedures to continue? The management team evidently sided with the operator, thus allowed the team to put themselves in dangerous situations. The question behind this is why would the management team allow this? The answer: money.
The management team knew that the ventilation systems and proper cleaning procedures were essential, yet they decided to risk their workers lives just to save a few dollars. As the investigation by the government continued, the investigators also found that water spray units were either no longer connected to the wall and/or were clogged. If these spray units were working the flames that caused the explosion could have been prevented, and there may have been twenty-nine more individuals alive today. The management team also did not want to pay for a cleaning company to come into the mine and take out the hazardous gases that were lingering in the mine. If the company simply had a ventilation system or a roofing system, the cleaning team would not of been needed. The gases would have evaporated within the air, which would have yet again saved the twenty-nine peoples lives. The management team was already under investigation by the MSHA, so you would have thought that the would have tried to fix something so they would not of been shut down, instead they just blew the entire thing up instead.
As the investigation proceeded, the investigators found a total of twelve violations that led to this explosion specifically to the performance of the company. There were two violations awarded to the contractor and 360 (yes 360) non-contributory violations that were found after the explosion occurred… Just a reminder, yes this all occurred in the United States. I want everyone reading this to think about how many times you hear news reports, articles and people saying how great the United States is. Now think about this explosion, which occurred in the United States because regulations were not heavily monitored. Since this only happened a year ago, who is to say that other companies within the United States are not risking the lives of their works just line this mining company just to save a few dollars. What does this should like to you? Id ay kind of like garment companies in Saipan or China etc. All of which are constructed by first world companies that abuse and step over their workers human rights in order to same and keep their money for themselves.
Since laws, Acts and human rights are being abused, how can individuals help prevent things like this horrible explosion from occurring again. Can we, as citizens, somehow convince large companies, like this coal and oil industries that spending money on safety precautions are worth it, not only for the individuals but also for the companies reputation as a whole? Or do you think that this viscous money hungry cycle will not end until this concept of capitalism and ‘survival of the fittest’ ends for good?
“MSHA – Fatal Accident Report – Performance Coal Company – Upper Big Branch Mine-South – Occuring April 5, 2010.” Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.msha.gov/Fatals/2010/UBB/PerformanceCoalUBB.asp>.
“Mining Disasters.” Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.infoplease.com/world/disasters/fatal-us-mining-accidents.html>.