Texas Liberal

All People Matter

West Virginia Massey Energy Coal Mine Disaster—Facts About Coal Mine Safety

Many miners have been killed in a coal mine disaster in Montcoal, West Virginia. This is in a coal mine run by Massey Energy that has recorded many safety violations.

(Above—The mine in the Massey Energy disaster.)

(Update–4/8/10, 9:40 AM EDT  —A West Virginia TV station has the latest from the mine.)

25 miners are known to be dead and four more are thought to be dead.

From the New York Times

“The mine owner’s dismal safety record, along with several recent evacuations of the mine, left federal officials and miners suggesting that Monday’s explosion might have been preventable…In the past two months, miners had been evacuated three times from the Upper Big Branch because of dangerously high methane levels, according to two miners who asked for anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat whose district includes the mine, said he had received similar reports from miners about recent evacuations at the mine, which as recently as last month was fined at least three times for ventilation problems, according to federal records…The Massey Energy Company, the biggest coal mining business in central Appalachia and the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine, has drawn sharp scrutiny and fines from regulators over its safety and environmental record. In 2008, one of its subsidiaries paid what federal prosecutors called the largest settlement in the history of the coal industry after pleading guilty to safety violations that contributed to the deaths of two miners in a fire in one of its mines.”

The worst coal mining disaster ever in the United States also took place in West Virginia. in 1907, 362 miners died in  Monongah, West Virginia in a disaster causes by a cave-in, an explosion and the build-up of toxic gases.

Below is from the account of the Monongah disaster that I link to above. It is from information prepared by Boise State University about a number of historical disasters—

“Thirteen days after the accident, an official Federal government report on mining accidents and deaths was released. On December 19th The New York Times reported that the government document said the number of accidents due to mining explosions had steadily increased and the cause of these accidents were often caused by of “lack of proper and enforceable mine regulations.” Another contributing factor was the absence of information on the explosives used in mining and the proper conditions under which they should be used. In comparison to the increase in mining accidents in the United States, European mining accidents had steadily decreased and this was considered the result of government intervention in these countries.”

How long will it go on that miners die in unsafe mines?

Here is the  web home of the United Mine Workers of America. The mine in this tragedy, the Upper Big Branch Mine, is not a union mine.

Here is a history of the United Mine Workers. They have done good work over the years to make coal mines safer places to work.

Coal mine deaths take place all over the world.  The Voice of America has written about stepped-up investigation of mines in China after a recent mine disaster in that country.

Some make the point that the human cost of coal mining is another reason to move to different sources of energy. The blogger Kathleen Davis, who writes the blog Eye On The Grid, draws an analogy between the dangers of coal mining and diamonds that extracted from mines in unethical and unsafe ways.

This said, the jobs of people who work in mines are important. If alternative sources of energy are to be used, miners should be helped by government to transition into new jobs.  It is is easy to see how a miner in West Virginia or Kentucky might wonder where he or she will find work that pays the money they are currently making.

Here is web site called Roger’s World–Coal Mining. Roger is a person who grew up in a coal mining camp in Kentucky and offers some perspective from the miner’s view.

In any case, one thing is certain–-Federal regulations are needed to make sure that workplaces are safe. You can never count on an industry to regulate itself.

Here are some facts on how coal mining is conducted from the Kentucky Geological Survey.

April 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I searched the net for “Sarah Palin and coal mining disaster” trying to get an idea of her take on the disaster. Sp far, your article is 3rd in google and still not a whisper from her. Nothing at all. Your fellow blog requested civility and no attacks on her and others to be posted in his blog. But no word from the lady herself.

    Comment by Patricia Brown | April 7, 2010

  2. That is a good point. Where is the champion of every day people? Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 7, 2010

  3. My grand father whould be there de manding you do something about what happened. and he did not work at massey but he did work in amine years ago. and yall suck be couse i know alot of peole who worked fo massey and died in this mine.

    Comment by krista carver | April 16, 2010

  4. I hope you pray for the coal miners who died in the mine disaster pray for the familys and the love ones who died for working and they didn’t rock salt the walls in the massy energy coal mine disaster

    Comment by kelsey | April 29, 2010

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