Atrocious acts of the coal industry endanger miners lives

Letter to Editor by Becca Barhorst

I write this opinion not as an environmental activist, a renewable energy advocate or a progressive.

I write this as a humanist, as we should all be, with a genuine concern for the dangers in which we entrench our people.

The West Virginia mine blast has disturbed me since its headlines broke the front page.

The devastation that West Virginia has experienced is shocking enough for President Obama to says, “…it’s clear that more needs to be done about mine safety.”

The mine blast is something that could have been avoided.

The fact we lost 29 Americans that day due to the laziness of Massey Energy to fix a “pattern of violations” running back to two years is appalling.

After being warned several times for high levels of methane, accumulation of flammable coal dust, and poor ventilation, Massey Energy Company failed to correct the problems.

Unfortunately, we see similar apathy toward mine workers here in Kentucky as well in the last generation, 60 percent of mining jobs have been lost due to the replacement of the miner with large machinery.

An industry that once employed much of Eastern Kentucky citizens, now only employs 1 percent of our state’s workforce, and that number is dwindling.

It is apparent the mining industry holds no value in the risks our miners take every day to make a buck for the coal company.

These risks include unbearable conditions, as seen in West Virginia.

Rescue workers at that Upper Big Branch mine had to cease efforts after it was detected that there were “explosively high levels of methane and carbon monoxide.”

This type of environment is what our workers walk into nearly every day, especially when companies like Massey Energy fail to regulate safe air quality.

It is atrocious to me that we allow for avoidable disasters like the West Virginia mine blast to happen.

In the words of John Muir, “when the canary stops singing, only a fool stays in the mines.”

It seems that we’ve been using our citizens as canaries for far too long.

Becca Barhorst

political science freshman