Saturday, April 10, 2010

RIP Upper Branch miners

The last four miners bodies were recovered yesterday at the Upper Branch mine. I think I can just about piece together exactly what happened or at least a close approximation. From what was said by one of the miners who went home to Ohio over the Easter weekend. He knew something was wrong at the mine. "He knew because his April 2 shift had ended about two hours early over ventilation concerns at the mine. He drove to Ohio to spend Easter with his family".
Now I'm guessing here but see if this doesn't fit. The gas alarms started going off sometime in late morning or early afternoon. The crew knew that they were not going to get the problem fixed that day and it being a holiday weekend figured they'd leave it for Monday. I've done this myself in my own profession as in "we're not going to get this fixed everybody clean up and let's get out of here, enjoy your weekend". Now as nobody was going to be in the mine over the weekend they shutdown the ventilation system entirely. That enabled methane over the weekend to fill the entire mine or at least the section where they were working. They fired up the vent fans to part of the mine but weren't able to get the ones working properly in the area of the explosion. The ones that were working provided just the right amount of oxygen so that the gas hit the upper explosion limit. It was just a matter of time before a spark set off the explosion.

I can only hope that something good will come of all of this and they didn't die in vain .


The Blog Fodder said...

That is how I am feeling about the death of all the Polish officials at Smolensk today.
If something good will just come out of tragedy ...

Four Dinners said...

The Jam....'Going Underground'. Perhaps play it at their funeral.

It is sad by any estimation but you do a job like that you risk death like that.

If everyone refused to go underground the money men would spend more to make it safer.

Horrible perspective really but, ultimately, it was their own fault.

They took the risk and lost.

It's a shame but there you go.

Tim said...

Four Dinners for shame.
Fact is this was like the fifth largest mining company in the country.Out of the five it's the only one that wasn't unionized. If they were they could have refused to go down in an unsafe environment without fear of job reprisal.
Mining in this area is the only somewhat decent paying job their is. Sure some of the miners make 70,000 to 100,000 per year. Of course that's working 80 to 100 hours per week. Not out of choice but as a mandatory rule. Similar union miners make almost that much with working only 40 hours per week.
These guys have been mining in their family's for 100 years of more. Move? Quit? Find something else? Not much call for miners other than where it's mined. They would have to leave friends, family, and their culture. That certainly could be avoided by the company stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. Put their treasured employees first before the dollar. Of course they won't do that. In the past they have been fined numerous times. The day of the accident they were cited for 15 violations. It was cheaper to pay the violations then to fix them.
By your reasoning there would be no firemen,policemen, rescue crews and Military personnel. People do their jobs for both money,pride and a sense of responsibility to their family's.
Four Dinners that's like saying "if it wasn't for my horse I could have went to College".

BBC said...

Two hundred years from now, if monkeys are still on this rock, miners will still be dying.

It's very risky working in the bowels of the earth and will never be completely safe.

I grew up in a mining area and when men died it was soon forgotten and the men were replaced and the mine kept operating, just like in any trade.

They didn't die, they just moved to a different level.

BBC said...

That is how I am feeling about the death of all the Polish officials at Smolensk today.
If something good will just come out of tragedy ..

In two months or less that news will be history.

BBC said...

Tim... Have you always been an idiot?

Tim said...

Yes just like you've always been a asshole.
Have another drink and tell someone who cares....

S.W. Anderson said...

Demeur, your sequence of events makes sense. I read the mine was cited several times for inadequate and/or unreliable ventilation. That's like a doctor being reprimanded repeatedly for faulty work — it's not a matter of whether, but of when, he or she will cause someone to die.

The good that should come of this is much bigger fines for successive safety lapses. Fines so big no operator will be able to do a cost/benefit analysis and decide it's better to let some people die and pay the fine, than do what's necessary to make the mine operation as safe as possible.

The other law that's needed is one setting up a point system for repeat offenders. Get so many points in a period of time, and the government shuts the mine down. Workers get paid out of the mine company's coffers, so they don't wind up being penalized for bad management.

The owner must then sell the mine. If no one steps up to buy it at a fair price, the government works out a deal to sell it to the employees, who then own and operate it themselves.

Demeur said...

To all: I can tell you if I were to do some of the stuff these guys do in my profession I'd be in jail. And it wouldn't matter if it was a union company or not. What was done here was manslaughter pure and simple. The violations that company received are simply held up in the courts because there are so many. With the corruption of the legal system in W Va it's easy to see just how they're getting away with this. I sure hope this goes to a higher federal court without the benefits of company payoffs.
And from what I've heard from people who have worked in those mines this is only the tip of the iceberg.
I've done jobs just as dangerous for both non union and union companies and I tell you that people shouldn't have to loose their lives because some greedy owner wants to make more profits. In the long run they will end up paying more in L&I claims and fines by ignoring the rules. I have seen companies go out of business because of it. In the long run it is cheaper to do it right.
To think that they can just move away or do something else is unrealistic. If you bother to look at what's in that area you'll note that there is no other industry and how would you transfer mining skills to some other profession?
I think we'll be seeing some big changes coming.

Distributorcap said...

sadly i think there will be a lot of discussion and chatter about safety - and at the end thre will be no changes. this guy blankenship holds too many cards and politicians - and he can always dangle the "i provide jobs"

this is why capitalism sucks

Tom Harper said...

Our local paper today had a letter suggesting a solution to mine safety: All owners and managers would be required to have their offices located at the bottom of the mine. Think how fast would they would upgrade their safety procedures.

Roger Owen Green said...

29 counts of manslaughter.