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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Mine disaster was just plain murder

The coal mine disaster this week in West Virginia was one of the worst such accidents in many years. As stated in The Wichita Eagle:

“MONTCOAL, W.Va. —An underground explosion that killed at least 25 coal miners created a fireball so intense that it tossed rail cars and twisted steel rail lines, officials said Tuesday, as rescue efforts aimed at finding four missing miners who might have survived the ghastly blast continued.
Crews worked feverishly Tuesday to carve an access road and drill three 1,000-foot-deep ventilation shafts into the craggy mountain to release the lethal buildup of poisonous methane gas and carbon monoxide that officials believe may have caused the disaster, as well as a fourth tunnel for rescue operations.
But officials said rescue teams may not be able to enter the vast Upper Big Branch mine safely until this evening, adding an agonizing wait to the heartbreak that already has devastated this Appalachian community in southern West Virginia.”

The real tragedy is that this happened in a coal mine that has had a record of safety violations. In other words this mine was unsafe and its owners new about it. The mine had been sited for hundreds of safety violations and still it kept operating. According to The Wichita Eagle:

“Davitt McAteer, former head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration, offered a caustic evaluation of Massey's safety record. "Massey has for some time had a problem with safety compliance and dealing with some of the really ordinary safety and precautionary issues," he said in an interview. The explosion this week sends a clear message, he said. "They had an explosion that killed 25. Your system is not working."
The company's claim is also challenged by legal opponents who have waded into internal documents of the criminal cases.
"They placed profits over safety repeatedly," says Tonya L. Hatfield, a lawyer in the coal mining town of Gilbert, W.Va., who has sued Massey in cases resulting from a 2006 fire at the Aracoma mine, where 12 miners were trapped and two died. In that case the company agreed to pay $2.5 million in criminal fines. The fine, when combined with $1.5 million in civil penalties was apparently the largest ever imposed in a coal mining death case.
"Aracoma's conduct in this case is clear and uncontroverted," said Logan Circuit Judge Roger L. Perry, as reported by two local newspapers. "Given the voluntary admissions of guilt, it is clear not only that Aracoma acted with deliberate intent regarding the unsafe working conditions in its coal mine, it acted with criminal intent.”

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, has been fingered as one of the main people responsible for the conditions at the mine. Along with mine owner Wilber Ross, Blankenship has been laying low, trying to avoid the press. But it wasn’t long ago this murderer was stumping for the American capitalists system and all the right-wing stupidity that we hear from the Tea Baggers. From the Kasama Project here is:
Massey Coal’s Don Blankenship &Wilber Ross: Making of Mine Murder

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