News Release

Mining Disaster: Big Picture


Barab edits the blog “Confined Space: News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics.” His most recent piece is “Mine Safety: Bush Administration to the Rescue?”
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Editor of Labor Notes, Kutalik said today: “The tragic deaths of 12 miners at the Sago mine isn’t really an ‘accident.’ Workplace fatalities are rarely accidents; they usually occur in places where inspection and enforcement of health and safety hazards in the workplace have been eroded over a long period. Corporate restructuring and deunionization in the U.S. coal industry coupled with the erosion of federal workplace hazard oversight and enforcement by the Bush administration — which has virtually gutted the Mine Safety and Health Administration — have led to a volatile situation in the industry.”
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Editor of Mine Safety and Health News, Smith said today: “A major question now is whether MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration] should have more power to shut down a mine to ensure worker safety. Another issue is the false information about the miners -­ this was the first time you didn’t have a professional press person from MSHA handling the information coming out of such a situation. Moreover, MSHA didn’t step in and correct the record about the deaths.”
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Project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition based in Huntington, West Virginia, Stockman said today: “Compromising the health and safety of their workers is one of the many ways that mining companies externalize their costs. They also do mountaintop removal, which blasts away mountains, destroys forests and dumps the rubble in valleys and streams. This practice also harms people because it destroys water tables and wells, worsens flooding and increases levels of toxic substances such as selenium in streams. People have died in the floods. Entire communities have been driven away. The companies put sludge from their coal prepping processes into leaking impoundments. Prep plant workers are exposed to toxic chemicals. Some of them are so ill they are suing the chemical manufacturers. … All these things require cleanup — the whole country is paying for the coal industry’s messes.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167