Do Coal Mines Hide Safety Problems from Workers?

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In December of last year, the anniversary of the Orient 2 coal mine disaster that claimed the lives of 119 miners was recognized by family and friends of the men killed in the incident. Per The Edwardsville Intelligencer, the coal mining accident happened in 1951 in West Frankfort, Illinois. During the last shift before Christmas that year, there was a methane gas explosion in the Southern Illinois coal mine. The tragedy devastated the community and is still remembered 65 years later. Unfortunately, with mining accidents still occurring and reports of coal mines hiding safety problems, are coal miners today any safer than they were in 1951?

Are Coal Mines Failing to Provide Miners with Safe Work Conditions?

In 2014, NPR published an article that shed light on the coal industry and how mines keep operating despite mounting safety violations, accidents, millions in fines, injuries and deaths. One miner whose story was highlighted in the piece was pinned face down in a mine after a 300-pound rock broke away from the roof and fell on him.

Per the NPR story, the man was able to free one of his arms, grab his radio and press the panic button. However, despite the fact that help was supposed to arrive quickly after pressing the panic button, the miner remained trapped for two hours before help finally arrived. Since the incident, which took place in 2010, the miner has been in constant pain due to his injuries and can only sit for limited periods of time and cannot walk very far at one time.

Prior to the mining accident that led to this miner’s injuries, the mine where he worked, Aracoma Alma, already had a history of safety issues involving falling rock. From 2008 to 2010, Aracoma Alma was hit with over 120 federal citations for violations involving falling rock in their mines. The citations ranged from failing to properly check for loose rocks and not providing adequate roof support. On the day of the miner’s accident, Aracoma Alma reportedly owed around $200,000 in overdue fines for mine safety violations.

Aracoma Alma is not alone in failing to pay fines for safety violations. According to the NPR article, federal mining data from 1994 to 2014 showed that around 2,700 coal mines owed close to $70 million in overdue penalties for safety issues.

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