Mine Workers Killed

September 2, 2007

In August, six miners were trapped and died more than 1,800 feet deep inside Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. The workers were mining from the “coal barriers,” the very structures that hold up the mountain over the mine. This is known as “retreat mining.” Another three workers were killed 10 days later when the rescue tunnel they were working in collapsed.

The events at Crandall Canyon were tragic and avoidable. The original 6 miners were killed because they were forced to work (the mine is non-Union) in dangerous conditions. The Mine Safety and Health Administration, a branch of the Federal Government which is supposed to protect miners, gave special approval to allow the dangerous practice of retreat mining. Retreat mining is especially dangerous at the depths of the Crandall mine. The rescue operation that was mounted to save the miners was also unnecessarily risky because of the conditions caused by the retreat mining.

Trying to hide his corporation’s culpability in causing these unnecessary deaths, Mr. Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, claimed that the tragedy was caused by a 3.9 magnitude earthquake. Seismic scientists from the University of Utah and elsewhere, however, stated that coal veins--already thinned by a risky form of deep mining--had buckled, setting off the collapse that sent seismograph needles spiking.

Given no pause by this tragedy, Mr. Murray said he intended to seal the mine and entomb the miners’ bodies inside then continue mining in another part of the mountain. Public outcry forced him to retreat from this position, for now. Nor are the miners’ deaths the only crime of the capitalists who run Murray Energy mines in five states and gross over $800 million dollars in revenue every year. Just this year, before the collapse, Crandall Canyon committed 33 health and safety violations. Murray Energy’s Galatia mine in Illinois has committed more than 850 federal health and safety violations so far this year.

In 2003, a federal court jury in Kentucky found Ken American Resources, another part of Mr. Murray’s empire, and four managers guilty on charges of conspiracy, lying and violating safety laws pertaining to dust levels. And at Ohio Valley Coal Company, a miner on a routine job bled to death after an accident because the Company did not have adequate first aid at the worksite.

As a result of the systematic and conscious refusal of the capitalists to guarentee a safe work environment, these and similar tragedies continually befall workers throughout our country. Every year, more than 50,000 U.S. workers are killed by workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

The deaths of these miners and other workers are not accidents. The capitalists are guilty of at least negligent manslaughter. At the minimum, miners and all workers must be guarenteed the right to safe workplaces, and this right must be held above the drive of the capitalists for profits.