God, please don’t let me die in a coal mine

Bad news from the West Virginia cave-in.

High levels of toxic carbon monoxide in a coal mine where 13 miners are trapped Tuesday have officials discouraged in their quest to rescue the men.

I have blogged about coal miners plenty here, but it bears mentioning again: Western society is predicated on the assumption that the coal keeps coming. I’ll let Orwell speak for me:

More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal-miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an ‘intellectual’ and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants—all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.

When you read any news about coal mines, this fact should never leave your mind. These men carry society upon their backs.

Apparently, this mine that blew up in West Virginia had a couple of issues with Federal regulators last year.

The Sago Mine was cited 208 times over alleged safety violations in 2005, up from just 68 citations the year before, The Associated Press reported.

Federal regulators’ allegations against the Sago Mine included failure to dilute coal dust, which can lead to explosions, and failure to properly operate and maintain machinery, according to the AP report.

This could be the jump-off point for a discussion about the race for the bottom line that causes mine owners to forego safety in favor of increased profitability, but that discussion will wait for another day. In the meantime, I am going to be hoping for a miracle.


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