Front Porch Blog

Tears for Miners

As I sit in a gloomy town in Western Michigan, this news is close to bringing me to tears. I want to say something that I share with anyone I speak with on a daily basis doing the Appalachian Treasures road show…

What next? What could possibly be worse for the movement that aims to protect our mountains and miners than this new appointment to MSHA?
As an accused environmental extremist I combat this stereotype by giving proper recognition, in my presentations of Appalachian Treasures to the miners, particularly the deep miners of our country. Men and women who place themselves in clear and present danger during every 8-hour shift they venture into the subterranean world of the coalmine. A generation of laborer heroes who have supplied our nation with a cheap source of electricity to accommodate our much loved American lifestyle. Do I hate coal? Absolutely, on every level coal extraction/production/burning is detrimental to the environment, ecology and the economy of not only the coalfields, but to the world. From the mass murdered mountains that have been beheaded by mountain top removal, to the poisoned air coal creates, to the miners that loose their lives for a resource that can only be used once.

When I became involved in coal issues and was beginning to attempt comprehension to the level of corruption involved in the coal industry, the first thing that I realized was that every miner is not protected. Heralded as a hero by industry excecs, and applauded by crooked politicians, they are routinely sent to their death in unsafe negligent mines. Lucky for them they are generally given a nice funeral with lots of glitz and glam to distract the nation and the families from the true problem. Safe mines are generally more expensive to operate than death trap doghole mines that do not meet safety standards. Even the miner who is still the backbone of the industry comes behind the almighty dollar. A miner’s life pales in comparison to the millions of dollars that coal companies are after. Adhering to safety standards would subtract form the overall profit coal companies are after. MSHA as it stands barely has any teeth, handing out hundreds of violations a year to unsafe mines with little or nothing done to address the problem of mine safety. Violations are hardly a slap on the wrist, and mines with thousands of violations are still allowed to operate. In this country if you get ten points on your license you can’t drive, in certain areas if you commit three felonies you get LIFE in prison. But coal companies, can receive hundreds of violations and still be allowed to stay in business, putting their employees in ever increasing danger. When my Great Grandfather was a mine foreman in Harlan county Kentucky, it was not uncommon for mine foreman to keep the expensive mine mules out of harms way, but to send men into most dangerous areas of the mine because a man was much more replaceable than a god trained mule. I guess not much has changed, and with this new joke of an appointment in Richard Stickler, our miners will continue to die for a dirty non-renewable energy source.
My heart hurts.





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