Ken Ward Jr., of the Charleston (WV) Gazette had an excellent article last week examining the business ramifications of the mining disaster at Sago and how regulation of the industry has been lax.
Here is an excerpt from his story:
“Over the past 30 years, the number of teams taking part in the once-popular national mine safety contest has dropped by nearly 70 percent, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration records.
“From 2000 to 2002 alone, the number of MSHA-approved safety teams nationwide dropped by 10 percent.
“By law, every coal mine in the United States must have at least two mine rescue crews. As of 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, there was actually just one rescue team for every four underground coal mines nationwide, according to a computer-assisted analysis of the MSHA data.
“Since at least 1995, the United Mine Workers union repeatedly has warned about the ‘depleted rescue team structure in this country.’
“In a 2002 letter to MSHA, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety wrote that the ‘loss of experience’ and ‘lack of readily available’ rescue team members ‘has been dramatic.’
“As rescuers retire, their positions are going unfilled. Smaller coal companies are opting not to have their own teams, and instead contracting out to rescue companies.”
Ward’s story is so damning about the mining industry it’s scary. My bet is this story — and the Gazette’s coverage — wins some awards in a year.