But according to federal records, the Upper Big Branch mine has had three fatalities since 1998 and has a worse than average injury rate over the last 10 years. Two of the miners died in roof collapses in 1998 and 2001, while a third was electrocuted in 2003 when repairing an underground car.
Ellen Smith, the editor of Mine Safety and Health News, said the Upper Big Branch mine had been repeatedly cited for safety violations going back years and continuing this year.
In the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch. The violations also cover failing to follow the plan, allowing combustible coal dust to pile up, and having improper firefighting equipment.
The mine, which employs just over 200 people, uses the "longwall mining" method to tear coal from a lengthy face, leading the ground behind it to collapse. Critics say the method can cause surface subsidence and damage to buildings.
Fans used to remove methane
Methane is one of the great dangers of coal mining, and federal records say the Eagle coal seam releases up to 2 million cubic feet of methane gas into the Upper Big Branch mine every 24 hours, which is a large amount, said Dennis O'Dell, health and safety director for the United Mine Workers labor union.
Since then, federal and state regulators have required mine operators to store extra oxygen supplies. Upper Big Branch uses containers that can generate about an hour of breathable air, and all miners carry a container on their belts besides the stockpiles inside the mine.
Sorry, from the president to the safety officials, I'm sick of hearing about deepest condolences, only to know they will just keep doing the same thing.
Notice the company itself has not said much of anything. They did not even officially give lists of names of the deceased. Family members are learning from other sources. I suspect they are deeply involved in covering their corporate asses.
For the record: COAL IS UNSAFE & DIRTY.
There! I said it.
i wonder how different this story might have been had the workers been unionized. how many of them had safety concerns about the mine but were afraid of losing their jobs by reporting them?
This company had 638 violations in the last several months. It is clear they accept fines for violations as a part of doing business.
If the dangerous mine does not kill you, then long term exposure can. Blacklung is a part of the job hazard. Years of breathing in the coal mine dust.
I think a big part of the answer is right over our heads.
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