Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our Viewpoint: Mine collapse sheds light on work's true nature

Our Viewpoint: Mine collapse sheds light on work's true nature

Tragedy erases romantic notions some may have had

Statesman Journal - Salem,OR,USAOpinionAugust 18, 2007

Underground mining long has had a romantic fascination for Americans. The headlamped miners pictured in old, black-and-white photos represent an ethic of hard work, defying daily dangers and casting aside the long-term threats of mining-related diseases.

The catastrophe in Utah should erase any vestige of that romanticism.
Six miners are missing in the Crandall Canyon Mine, trapped by an Aug. 6 cave-in. Fueled by determination and a sense of brotherhood, rescuers have been drilling and tunneling for days in hopes of reaching the men, wherever they might be.

Now that rescue effort itself has claimed three lives, and injured six others, as the mountain that holds the coal mine slowly disintegrates. As this brutal week came to an end, underground rescue efforts were put on hold while everyone wondered what to do now.

"We went from a tragedy to a catastrophe," Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said.
Through it all, Utah's mining community has shown a resilience, a faith and a grace in the face of tragedy that makes us proud of our fellow Americans. News accounts brought stories and pictures of public officials and private citizens, who grieved alongside one another, doing whatever they could to support each other in this communities with long mining histories.

Those of us far away cannot ease their pain, but we can hold them in our thoughts and prayers. And we can wipe away any vestiges of mining's romanticism, replacing that image with a determination to protect our nation's miners.

Someday, investigations may show the Crandall Canyon Mine as a textbook example of what went wrong. If so, we can only hope it becomes a turning point in mining safety.

State-of-the art communication equipment, locater gear and long-term survival devices -- not in place at Crandall Canyon -- are expensive. The decision to leave large of pillars of coal intact -- instead of removing every saleable piece on the way out -- cuts into profits.

But nothing is expensive as the loss of human lives.