coal-miners.jpgRemember those Utah miners? The ones that were trapped and no one could reach them. Then rescuers went in and died as well. Turns out, the mine had issues for some time but there was no oversight.

(AP) Bureau of Land Management inspectors noted serious structural problems at Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine at least three years before two roof collapses killed nine people in August, Congress was told Tuesday.

Yet the government’s mine safety agency at the Labor Department didn’t know of the concerns about Crandall Canyon until after the accident, Kevin Stricklin, a coal mine safety and health administrator for Labor, told a Senate hearing on the accident.

The Labor Department had approved a plan to mine there.

Senate documents showed, according to the AP, that in November 2004 a BLM inspector noted that pillars of coal, which were holding up the mine’s roof, were failing. The inspector, Stephen Falk, said that further mining by pulling out the pillars would be “untenable.”

That the mine operators “had thoughts and plans to try pillar recovery was wishful thinking and was more wanting to extend mine life,” Falk wrote.Under questioning, Stricklin said the report would have been helpful and could have shaped the agency’s decision to allow mining at Crandall Canyon.

Who’s overseeing this government agency. Well, for a long time, no one. For about two years, no one headed up the Mine Safety and Health Administration, a division of the Labor Department. Finally, Bush decided on Stricklin, a mine industry insider, to take the helm.
After Bush sidetracked opposition to Stricklin in 2006 by appointing him while Congress was in recess, a New York Times article stated:

The lawmakers and the mine workers’ union said Mr. Stickler had spent too many years as a mining executive and had failed to demonstrate adequate concern for safety in the mining industry.

The families of the dead miners are now at their wits end.

From the AP today:

Surrounded by family photos, relatives of the nine victims of Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine collapse told lawmakers Wednesday they blame the government and mine owners for the fatal cave-in.

Who should they blame?

Remember this guy? crandall-ceo.jpgRobert Murray, the CEO of the company that operates the mine, had insisted after the collapse that the cause was an earthquake.

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