Monday, January 30, 2006


First the good news, the 72 miners trapped by fire in a potash mine have been rescued, and not only that, none even required hospitalization.

Miraculous one might say, especially in contrast with the two preceding coal mine disasters which left 14 dead, and one miner in grave condition.

Miraculous one might say, except that the real reason for the the different outcomes was geographical, the surviving miners were working in Canada, the dead ones in the United States.

And this is no mere co-incidence or simple anti-Bush snark, the reasons for the outcome in the Canadian mine are very easy to see:

The miners reported smoke and quickly headed for the refuge rooms, which can be as large as 50 feet by 150 feet and have an internal supply of oxygen that lasts up to 36 hours, along with food, water, chairs and beds.

The West Virginia miners had no such luxuries.
And why, pray tell is that?
Were the accidents unforseeable? No. In fact coal mining is appreciably more dangerous than potash mining.

The simple fact is that mine safety regulations in the US, under the Bush administration, where they haven't been gutted entirely, carry only the merest of penalties.

And so while their industry rakes in billions from their work, US mine workers operate under conditions that make them more vulnerable than need be, as the happy conclusion of the Canadian incident demonstrates.

Were I a family member of one of those West Virginia miners, I'd be angry indeed, that the government that is so willing to cancel our civil liberties in the name of security, is so unwilling to enforce very simple measures here at home that could have saved a loved one's life.

And I'd be angry as hell that instead of proper regulation, when it comes to disaster preparedness, our born-again administration prefers to wait on miracles.

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