2007:LEST WE FORGET - Sago Sound And Fury

By Bob Weaver 2007

It's cheap to be cynical.

Could it be not much has changed since the recent spate of West Virginia mine disasters and deaths.

There was much clamor and noise by government officials with their year-long investigations about safety issues.

The purpose, create new efforts and standards to hold mining owners accountable for their workers well-being.

Only time will tell.

Somehow it seems like the same smoke and mirrors system is still in place, corporations appeal their citations and fines, historically paying pennies on the dollar.

Sago mine owners ignored hundreds of citations charging them with electrical violations, poor maintenance, poor training, and unsafe equipment.

The Charleston Gazette, obtaining information though a federal FOIA, says that in the months prior to the Sago disaster that killed 12 miners, the U. S. Mine Safety and Health Administration declined to cite the owners, the International Coal Group.

In other words, they were never cited for safety violations that could have led to the tragedy.

In 149 violations, 86 of the cases received the minimum fine of $60.

Charleston reporter Ken Ward, Jr. says the company has appealed at least 28 of the larger fines.

Or consider the recent $2.5 billion fines issued to Massey Coal for environmental violations. It is not likely their executives are awake at night worrying about paying the bill.

To borrow from Shakespeare, such events are full of sound and fury, signifying little or nothing.

They made good press for a day or two.

Reporter Ward says the MSHA report obtained through an FOIA describes a Sago mine with major safety problems, with the accident incident rate twice the national average.

However, Sago owners issued a statement that the citations had nothing to do with the fatal event that killed the miners.