Time and again over the past four years, federal mining inspectors documented the same litany of problems at central West Virginia's Sago Mine: mine roofs that tended to collapse without warning. Faulty or inadequate tunnel supports. A dangerous buildup of flammable coal dust.
Yesterday, the mine's safety record came into sharp focus as officials searched for explanations for Monday's underground explosion. That record, as reflected in dozens of federal inspection reports, shows a succession of operators struggling to overcome serious, long-standing safety problems, some of which could be part of the investigation into the cause of the explosion that trapped 13 miners.
In the past two years, the mine was cited 273 times for safety violations, of which about a third were classified as "significant and substantial," according to documents compiled by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Many were for problems that could contribute to accidental explosions or the collapse of mine tunnels, records show.
The media, this so-called anti-business, anti-Republican liberal media, is almost as much to blame for the deaths, and that's as much a deal as the idiotic and unprofessional reporting that told the world that the miners were all alive.
Good investigative reporting -- of the likes of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, Jacob Riis, Jack Anderson and pre-fame Woodward and Bernstein -- has gone the way of the rotary phone. And it's this kind of reporting that exposed a meat-packing industry that was killing people, exposed life in NYC slums, exposed corrupt politicians from Boss Tweed to Nixon. They were in full-throttle during the Lewinsky thing, but only in it for the titillation. "Reporters" dig for the next missing blonde chick but don't work to expose real problems like the Sago mine.
These miners died because of a lack of enforcement of safety codes and a lazy press. Its OSHA, the EPA, FDA and other agencies that should be there to protect us. When they fall down the Fourth Estate (the press) needs to be there to call them into account.
Let's not let the union off the hook. They're as complicit in the deaths as the mining company and the press. They should never have allowed their rank-and-file into that mine and should never again allow workers to go to demonstrably unsafe mines.
These miners died because of a business climate that falsely proclaims how burdensome safety regulations are and because the press has left its balls and vigilance at the door in a trade for access and glamour. China allows its citizens to be expendable cannon-fodder for industry and "progress" (dam failures, chemical plant explosions). The Soviet Union did the same (Chernobyl) The number of deaths is astounding -- do some research on it. The level of government complicity and the callousness of government response in these and other nations we condemn for human rights abuses is even more astounding. We should be better than that.