Like a School Shooting, Momentary Outrage, Then Silence
Many Pressures Led to Cave-In
Critics Cite Economics, Lax Safety Rules in Utah Mine Disaster
By Karl Vick and Sonya Geis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 20, 2007; A01
HUNTINGTON, Utah, Aug. 19 -- In the small hours of Aug. 6, before the mountain came down around six men working to hollow it out, immense forces were concentrated on the far reaches of the Crandall Canyon coal mine. Not all of them came from within the groaning mountain.
Gravity in crushing concert with geology was the immediate problem. For years, miners had ground huge gouges out of the mountain, progressing horizontally a foot at a time. Pressing down on them was a mass of rock extending up more than a third of a mile.
The other pressure was economic. The coal that rattles on conveyor belts out of the hillsides of east-central Utah sold for 50 percent more last year than five years earlier. In Crandall Canyon, the section the mine crew was working Aug. 6 had already been harvested and abandoned by a previous owner. The mine's new owner sent crews back in to gather more.
How is it possible that Robert E. Murray, owner of Murray Energy is not already in jail?
Here is a man who used the public forum to boast of his personal concern, then fled the scene when three rescuers were also killed. Here is a man whose mines collect hundreds of safety citations and has (for unknown reasons) never been brought up on either federal or civil charges. Here is a man who went back into a mined-out property to do 'retreat mining,' which removes the coal pillars supporting the roof--a process that is so dangerous most responsible mining companies won't do it and sell to those who will. Here is a man who profits from other men's dependence, a man for whom death is merely an associated side business issue.
Here is a truly disgusting individual.
Like a school shooting, public outrage peaks at the time of the incident and then subsides. Mine workers are the forgotten remnants of an industrial age, thrust again into the gut-pile of society, this time for reasons of energy dependence.
Murray will no doubt go free--of everything but his conscience, presuming he has one.