Tuesday, January 03, 2006

King Coal

One thing about being a West Virginian living abroad is the feeling of utter surreality you get when places familiar to you from childhood make the international news. So it was last night when BBC radio's hourly news update included a story from Buckhannon.

The story of the trapped coal miners did not stay in the bulletins very long, since there hasn't been much progress and the Beeb presumably don't have a correspondent there. I had to go
elsewhere on the web to learn that the company that runs the mine has a history of safety violations:

A coal mine where 13 miners were trapped after an explosion Monday was cited 208 times for alleged safety violations in 2005, up from just 68 citations the year before.

Federal regulators' allegations against the Sago Mine included failure to dilute coal dust, which can lead to explosions, and failure to properly operate and maintain machinery, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Ninety-six of the citations were considered "significant and substantial" by inspectors.

Records from the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration also show that Sago Mine has had 42 injuries since 2000 that resulted in lost work time.

Its injury rate per hours worked in 2004, the most recent year for such data, was nearly three times the national rate for a mine of its type. Eight injuries were reported that year.

The state Office of Miners' Health Safety & Training, which inspects underground mines four times each year, issued 144 notices of violation at Sago last year, compared to 74 in 2004, officials said.

The maximum fine the company could have paid for each citation? $250. Such is life under King Coal.


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