Don’t Let Them Tell You Strip-mining is Safer for the Workers
Today, another strip-miner died when the excavator he was operating rolled into a pond. Doubtless Patriot Coal is more concerned about losing the excavator.
This marks the 9th surface mine fatality of 2009 in the United States. There have been two deep mine deaths this year.
One of the most commonly deployed arguments for mountaintop removal is that it is safer for the miners. This line of reasoning completely ignores the fact that mountaintop removal is MUCH more dangerous to the people who live around the operation. But notwithstanding this huge gap, the argument is still wrong.
Since 2006, there have been 15 surface mine fatalities in West Virginia compared to only 8 deep mine deaths, despite the fact that there are twice as many deep miners as mountaintop removal workers!
I have exhausted myself explaining how strip-mining is harmful to those who aren’t getting paid to do it, i.e. the surrounding residents. Here I will point out a few reasons while mountaintop removal is dangerous to the strip-miners themselves.
Most laborers on a strip-mine spend 60 hours a week loading a truck full of debris, driving it to a valley, and dumping it in the valley. Wince and repeat. Needless to say, this work is extremely monotonous. After months of the same routine, the truckers who only make about 8 dollars an hour naturally get a little burnt out. And since these trucks with 20 foot high tires weigh ten times more than your average 18 wheeler, bad things can happen when their drivers become careless.
One of the most common ways to die on a strip-mine is to be run over by one of these trucks. Another common fatality involves a trucker rolling over the edge of a valley fill while dumping his load. Or in this case, an excavator operator rolled into a pond. There have been other cases of people dying in fires or falling off of huge excavators.
The natural hazards of operating HEAVY HEAVY machinery are bad enough. Things get much worse when the low paid and overworked operators try to beat the monotony. An informant once told me that every other trucker did pills. I personally know of one mtr worker who trades his wife’s xanax for ridilin.
To make matters even worse, another informant once told me that a lot of the equipment used at these sites is out-dated or mechanically flawed. A couple days before the “unannounced” inspections, the bad machines are put to pasture.
There is no justification for mountaintop removal. It has to stop. We have to stop it.
You can read more about the accident and probably receive updates at Ken Ward’s blog: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/07/28/worker-killed-at-samples-mountaintop-removal-mine/#more-1017