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January 06, 2006

Sago links

ThinkProgress: Chao’s Spin on Sago: We Saw the Problem, We Just Didn’t Do Anything About It

Crooks and Liars: Former director of National Mine Academy blames Bush admin. over the Sago Mine disaster

Jordan Barab: Trival MSHA fines, Bush selling out safety to industry

MineSafetyWatch: No excuse for WV families' agony

Sirotablog: Bush ignored explicit warnings in 2002 about mine safety


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Being from Kentucky, we hear about problems with coal mining. While Kentucky only had 5 deaths directly related to the mining last year, they don't talk about the deaths caused by overweight coal trucks on roads in bad shape because of those trucks. You probably also don't hear much about the mountain top removal in eastern Kentucky. And it's just like it sounds, the cut away the tops of the mountains to get at the coal. It's tough to see my beautiful state being robbed of its people and its beauty.

Must read if you are following this mine explosiong. A mine expert is posting.

Underground: Mining, Sago, and Death by Greed

The Real Problem at Sago
The problem with the Sago Mine went far beyond the number of safety violations. The problem was what was behind those violations.

Sago was not alone in reporting large numbers of violations. Other mines have also had numbers just as high. And believe it or not, that's often a good things. In a well run mine, particularly a union mine, miners feel no compunction against reporting problems to both management and inspectors. Violations are noted, because problems are being addressed. And small things get cited before they become big things.

Companies work with extraordinary diligence to see that safety comes first. Does that sound trite? At the company where I work, every meeting begins with a safety contact. I'm not talking about meetings at the mine, I'm talking about the corporate office. IT staff meeting? Safety discussion. HR benefits revue? Safety discussion. You can't go an hour without a notice on safety. The CEO sends out a daily email on safety concerns. The company recently put several hundred pocket PCs in the hands of miners, expressly so they could collect and report information on potential safety issues.

Maybe that all sounds a little goody-two-shoes. A little too PR. But the fact is, safety saves them scads of money. They don't do because they're nice guys, they do it because the top companies realized decades ago that they can't afford accidents. Unlike the fly-by-night vultures behind ICG, the big companies intend to stick around for more than a week. They need all hands on deck every possible working hour. There are many mines that haven't had a lost time accident in years -- not one person injured so badly they didn't finish out the shift. Can your local McDonald's say that?

So why didn't ICG keep Sago safe? Because these guys are vultures. Outfits like this exploit corporate bankruptcy laws to take over mines that are on the ropes, then squeeze their bones for every last cent. In the case of Sago, ICG's corporate shell game managed to avoid safety and environmental citations, to escape black lung payments, and break a union contract. Then they got to sell coal into the highest priced market ever. How nice for them, huh?

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