One More Coal Mine Disaster: The Root Cause That Impacts Everyone

"Black Lung Disease from Coal Mining on the Rise" Image & Caption credit:Civilianism.com

Brian documented the recent coal mine explosion in WV, a tragic story which has been all over the news.

The tendency I've seen in both print and broadcast media is to finger point at the mine owner and operator and hint that government needs to crack down to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The inference being, that if this were done everything would be fine - maybe a reduced profit margin is all.

To focus only on the proper role of government in preventing future mine disasters is a distraction from the root cause and the big picture of coal-produced risk: high-value coal is running out in Appalachia. That's why they are blowing the tops off mountains and digging ever deeper and farther to get at what's left. The upshot is increased risk to occupational health and the environment.

The widely-held assumption that following safety rules could have prevented that disaster may be false.Increasingly, deep mining of coal in Appalachia may no longer be economic when best safety and health practices are implemented and compliance closely monitored (regardless of whether done voluntarily or by government regulations)? Whether this is so has to be determined between the industry and regulatory agencies, on a case by case basis. But ultimately, mountain top removal and deep mining have a shared burden of increased material handling and chance-taking to get at what remains of 'the good stuff.'

You have a similar situation with natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. Drilling deeper and farther, injecting a witches brew of so-called 'fracing compounds' to get at the remaining gas introduces hazards which have to be managed in ways that developers never faced with conventional technology. It costs more money. Involuntary risk leads to outrage and new regulations get made.

The slower and more powerful, long-term drama unfolding.
The media pays almost no attention to the increased number of coal miners diagnosed each year with black lung disease. They wait for the dramatic explosion to get viewers and derive ad revenue.

And so, we all learn to overlook the slower tragedies of failing health, health care costs imposed on society, ruined landscapes and rivers, a nation's children dosed with tons of elemental mercury on a daily basis, and an unfolding climate catastrophe.

Yes, the media does deserve blame for not connecting the dots.

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