Massey Energy In the Hot Seat Again
by Chuckie Corra, Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:53:46 PM EDT
As sad as it truly is, I am no longer surprised when I read horrific headlines about Massey Energy. Since the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, Massey Energy and Don Blankenship have become synonymous with neglect, crookedness, and wrong-doings. This recent headline, found on Charleston Gazette’s Coal Tattoo, is certainly no different. The headline reads "NPR report: Massey Energy ordered methane detector disabled at Upper Big Branch Mine."
Now, it has been awhile since I’ve posted on the Seminal about Blankenship or Massey. (Due to African excursions and summer jobs, I’ve had my hands quite full the past few months. However, for those of you who are first time readers or who may not remember, here is a refresher on some things.
First off, the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in Raleigh County West Virginia was one of the biggest mining disasters the US has seen in a very long time. Massey Energy and Don Blankenship were not seen in a very bright light afterwards.
I’m crossposting a segment mentioned in Coal Tattoo, but ultimately was found on NPR and reported by them in regards to the methane monitor.
On Feb. 13, an electrician deliberately disabled a methane gas monitor on a continuous mining machine because the monitor repeatedly shut down the machine.
Three witnesses say the electrician was ordered by a mine supervisor to “bridge” the automatic shutoff mechanism in the monitor.
Methane monitors are mounted on the massive, 30-foot-long continuous miners because explosive gas can collect in pockets near the roofs of mines. Methane can be released as the machine cuts into rock and coal. The spinning carbide teeth that do the cutting send sparks flying when they cut into rock. The sparks and the gas are an explosive mix, so the methane monitor is designed to signal a warning and automatically shut down the machine when gas approaches dangerous concentrations.
“Everybody was getting mad because the continuous miner kept shutting off because there was methane,” recalls Ricky Lee Campbell, a 24-year-old coal shuttle driver and roof bolter who witnessed the incident. “So, they shut the section down and the electrician got into the methane detector box and rewired it so we could continue to run coal.”
The continuous miner was working in an entryway about three miles from the location of the deadly explosion in April. Campbell and other mine workers were getting the section ready for mining. The continuous miner was cutting into the roof to make way for a conveyor belt and was cutting into both rock and coal, according to Campbell.
“I asked them, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Campbell says. “And they told me, ‘We’re bridging a methane detector. We’re bypassing it,’ is what they said.”
It is very disheartening to hear about the things this corporation manages to get away with. The bad things keep piling up for ol’ Blankenship, and yet nothing has been done to remove the man that has actually materialized into something promising. My hopes are that one day, the coal miners of West Virginia (and everywhere) will be able to feel safe and know they are in good working conditions every time they step into a mine.