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Cave In at Utah Mine Kills Three Rescue Workers

This is terrible news:

A disastrous cave-in Thursday night killed three rescue workers and injured at least six others who were trying to tunnel through rubble to reach six trapped miners, authorities said. Mining officials were considering whether to suspend the rescue effort.

It was a shocking setback on the 11th day of the effort to find miners who have been confined at least 1,500 feet below ground at the Crandall Canyon mine. It's unknown if the six are alive or dead.

Update: Questions are starting to arise about whether some of the trapped miners are illegal immigrants.

Some of the Mexican nationals may be illegal immigrants, according to Barbara Stinson Lee, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City who talked to the Rocky Mountain News. She reportedly asked photographers not to take pictures of families who attended a Mass Tuesday night.

"It is a request from the families that there be no photographs. It's not grief. It's an immigration issue. They don't need pictures on the front page of newspapers," Lee told the News.

This does not mean that these men should not be rescued, of course. You just don't leave human beings trapped inside a mine no matter what their immigration status; however, this brings up others issues as Greg Pollowitz at Media Blog correctly points out:

But, with today's latest tragic news that three rescue workers were killed last night, at some point their immigration status will have to be addressed. Soon, questions will be asked of mine owner Bob Murray, and rightly so, that if he hired illegal immigrants to work in his mine, what other employment, mining or safety laws might he have broken as well?


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Comments (41)

It's time to call this so-c... (Below threshold)

It's time to call this so-called rescue off. At this point it is a recovery operation. No family member wants to hear that, but reality is reality, and there will be no "Pennsylvania Nine" miracle. It is simply to dangerous to continue.

R.I.P to the brave men who were killed trying to rescue their co-workers, and wishes for those who are recovering from this latest accident.

One doesn't get sadness in ... (Below threshold)

One doesn't get sadness in this vale of tears without further misfortune to shade the first. It is merciful.

This is yet another serious... (Below threshold)

This is yet another serious incident in this unsafe nonunion mine. The United Mine Workers of America have made repeated attempts to unionize this mine and stop the unsafe practices such as very dangerous form of "retreat" mining which collapses parts of the mine after areas are completely mined out. This mine is far deeper than any other mine in Utah according to a statement by the Governor of Utah as well. In addition a unusually high percentage of the miners are recent immigrants to America, and some may lack the experience of other miners.

The only reason that the owners of this mine resisted a labor union was so that they could continue some of the most dangerous and unsafe mining practices in the state of Utah. These tragic accidents are important reasons why miners need to be union members and can make safety concerns known without fear of losing their job, and wholly unsafe mining practices are not used in union mines, which have far lower accident rates compared to nonunion mines which seriously cut corners with the safety of their workers. If I was the mine owner I would fear what federal officials will do after their investigation of the incidents. Running one of the worst companies in America can come at a high price to both the workers and owners alike.

Hooson, cool, nothing like ... (Below threshold)

Hooson, cool, nothing like a little defamation to start the day.

SPQR, I certainly can't jus... (Below threshold)

SPQR, I certainly can't justify the actions of the Utah mining company like you can that needlessly endangers the safety of workers by poor safety practices and actively attempts to prevent safer working conditions. Even the Governor of Utah is greatly concerned with workplace safety at this mine which is far deeper at 2,000 feet and two to three miles long than perhaps any mine in all of Utah as well as uses some very dangerous mining practices that the United Mine Workers Union does not like at all. The owner of the mine continues to claim "earthquakes" as the cause of the accidents, when The University Of Utah finds no such seismic evidence. 2,000 feet of weight is a serious matter on weakeded caverns when even your average city sewer worker can be buried alive in a 10 foot trench if the wood retaining walls give way. The miracle at the Utah mine is that more needless accidents and deaths didn't happen before now.

Remember last year's Sago mine accident at that nonunion mine. Work fatality rates are up to 40% lower where miners have the United Mine Workers Union to prevent unsafe mining practices and can make safety issues known to the Union without fear of losing their job. On the other hand, two of the former Utah mine employees voiced concerned with safety in interviews, and felt that they could lose their jobs if they complained about dangerous conditions.

Worldwide, nonunion mines kill far more workers than the far safer unionized mines do, about 40% more. The worst examples are in China where thousands of nonuion workers lose their lives each year. Every country in the world notes the same difference in worker safety between the nonunion and union mines. Usually government only act with fines or criminal charges against mine operators once an accident happens. But unions provide critical safety concerns to prevent accidents in the first place. There's a huge difference in worker safety.

Is the Utah mine the deepes... (Below threshold)

Is the Utah mine the deepest in the U.S.?

Comparing China mines to U.S. is asinine. How does U.S. Unionize mine compare with U.S. Nonunion mines? Give sources that aren't Union controlled.

Wanye, even the SALT LAKE T... (Below threshold)

Wanye, even the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE noted that the Utah mine has compiled $280,000 and hundreds of in violations since 1995 and is subject to just six federal inspections a year. On the other hand, the ability to report problems to a union at any time without the fear of losing your job makes a huge difference in worker safety.

I only cited that the mines in China are nonunion, and also the most dangerous in the world, where only government inspections prevent accidents there just like the problems at the Utah mine where only government inspections just six times a year are the only thin line protecting the life of miners. That's just not good enough to have saved 9 lives in two incidents in the last two weeks. Workers need to ability to report safety problems on a daily basis when new safety problems develop without the fear of losing their job. So far only the United Mine Workers Union seems to offer that important worker safety protection.

Hooson, given your history... (Below threshold)

Hooson, given your history for unreliable statement, I find little in your claims to credit.

But more importantly, I find no basis for your defamatory statements above.

Mine Safety? We don't need ... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

Mine Safety? We don't need no stinkin' mine safety.
This guy..Stickler after facing even Republican opposition..was a recess appointment by Bush to MHSA

"Richard Stickler has 37 years in the coal industry, the overwhelming majority as an industry executive for various mine operators in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Safety records kept by MSHA show that while Stickler was in charge of the Bethenergy Marianna Mine in western Pennsylvania the injury rate climbed substantially and while he ran Eagle's Nest Mine in Van, West Virginia, the injury rate was more than twice the national average."

...of course he replaced Bush's 1st appointment
David Lauriski. Who,before becoming head of MSHA in 2001, was an executive at Energy West Mining. He was forced to resign after being charged with taking kickbacks on contracts awarded by MSHA.
During his tenure, Lauriski packed MSHA with former coal mining executives and lobbyists. He cut MSHA inspectors and drastically reduced fines imposed on coal operators. One of his first actions upon taking office was to withdraw 16 proposed regulation changes affecting mine safety and to postpone implementation of two other regulations.

Bush has never done more than appoint hacks..
"Hell of a job____________(fill in the blank)

Ya all check out Lauriski MSHA and Stickler MSHA...see what YOU come up with..

RIP these miners and their brave brothers who died in their attempt....

"I only cited that the mine... (Below threshold)

"I only cited that the mines in China are nonunion..."

Not exactly true. In China, the Workers are running the country. It's all one big Union.

Unless the Left has been lying to us about Communism.


Ben...I had to wipe the ice... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

Ben...I had to wipe the ice tea spittle off my screen...thank you for a righteous laugh..

PaulYou never answer... (Below threshold)

You never answered any of my questions. Your follow up stats doesn't tell me much of anything without comparing them to Union mines. Are you saying Union mines don't have any safety violation or fines?

As for the rescue operations, the problem probably lies as much with the understandably overzealous of the workers to help their co-workers.

Unions can be helpful in creating a safer work environment. However, it seems that their main concern anymore is getting more money and power. I experience this first hand in the two different Unions that I once was a member of.

Hooson - I might have a bit... (Below threshold)

Hooson - I might have a bit of sympathy to your union/non-union position that you are so passionate about but one question keeps stickin' in my throat:

Are the workers unionized that produce the Chinese scooters you sell and get hurt on? More to the point, do you care? Obviously not when there's a profit to be made.

R.I.P to those that have lost their lives both in the original collapse and the rescue effort.

nogo:Bush has ... (Below threshold)


Bush has never done more than appoint hacks..

Then you should expect your appointment to the newly formed Cabinet position of Dept of Disingenuous Trolls any minute now.

Having worked in the coal i... (Below threshold)

Having worked in the coal industry for about 17 years (behind a desk, but with mining engineers and minesite personnel), I can tell you that union vs non-union status makes absolutely no difference to the safety of a mine. It is absolutely ludicrous to even suggest that a mine operator would deliberately take chances with the safety of the miners. Nor would a miner go into a situation in which he felt he was in danger. For an operator, the amount of profit to be made is small in comparison to the cost of this type of rescue/recovery and the lawsuits sure to follow.

Only someone ill-informed, stupid and gullible enough to believe the media (such as Hooson) would suggest that union vs non-union makes a difference.

I have been in underground coal mines many times and have actually been in one in Utah. It is a frightening thing and I have a lot of respect for those who go under day in and day out to get the coal for electricity generation so that idiots like Hooson can power his computer. The miners wouldn't put their lives at risk for that.

Well said, COgirl.... (Below threshold)

Well said, COgirl.

nogo war attempts to blame ... (Below threshold)
Looks like some more Republ... (Below threshold)

Looks like some more Republican love for mine-owners w/ the convenient recess appointment of coal-maggot Stickler. Another case of "good job, Stickie."

Murray, the mine-owner in Utah has a nice long history w/ Republicans, esp. Minority Leader chicken-lips McConnell.

This is a mine-owner who utilized retreat mining, a most dangerous practice, particularly in the deep mines of Utah. 12 rescue workers had already begged off the rescue operation because of their concerns for the safety of the Crandall mine. Former employees of the Crandall mine have said that Murray always put profit before safety.

But here at Wizbang, we see the nasty ole union-haters spewing anti-union bile w/ a casual disregard for human safety, while on past threads some of these same have bemoaned the denial of the right-to-life for fetuses.

It would seem that once a fetus is safely freed from the womb, some of these commenters couldn't give a flying crap for post-fetal worker safety, esp. if the worker is part of a slimey power-grabbing union, or gawd, worse yet, an illegal immigrant.

freedomFRIED - excuse me fo... (Below threshold)

freedomFRIED - excuse me for borrowing some of your words:

"It would seem that once a fetus is safely freed from the womb," freedomFRIED has lost all sense of balance and has no clue that mine safety has improved during the Bush years (PDF file).

As opposed to say, the Clinton years.

It would also seem some people would make an excellent poster child for post-natal abortion. As luck would have it, it's not a feasible solution.

FF, you are late to the par... (Below threshold)

FF, you are late to the party, your pathetic attempt to attack Bush admin has already been discredited.

typical of you really.

This thread is Exhibit A in... (Below threshold)

This thread is Exhibit A in trolls talking out their ass. I'm glad I didn't read it last night. COgirl is the only person here who got it right.

Since I'm actually in the mining business let's correct some things here.

Paul, retreat mining is an accepted and approved method of mining. It's happening as we speak in hundreds of deep mines in KY, VA, WVa, Utah and elsewhere. It is not an "unsafe" practice, it is approved and allowed by MSHA. Where this mine owner may be in trouble is that he may not have a retreat plan approved yet by MSHA. If he didn't, he's going to jail, along with the mine foreman and every supervisory level person in the mine. If this mine was unionized, a lot of those guys headed to jail would be union members.

Plenty of trolls here have tossed around the term "retreat mining" as if it were a crime. They don't even know what retreating is unless it comes to a discussion of the War on Terror. Retreat mining is nothing more than reducing the size of a pillar left in place after advance mining is completed. As the coal pillar is reduced in size, support columns are constructed that replace the support previously given by the coal pillars. Any troll want to take a guess at what a pillar is?

Mining is a tight knit industry. Mine operators literally have the freedom and liberty on the line when they operate a mine. Don't believe me? Take a look at the Sago investigation. It may be that the sago disaster was an act of god, but foremen and supervisors are being indicted for poor paperwork nonetheless. That's how serious this business is. The Federal government just indicted several mine operators in Kentucky last week for safety violations. Just curious, do you think any ComAir execs are going to jail for the ComAir crash in Lexington last year when the pilots took off on the wrong runway? Any ATC guys being indicted?

I don't even want to get started on the Chinese mines.....

What penalties do these gre... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

What penalties do these greedy SOB's face

"Each count carries a statutory maximum sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine and one year of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction will be imposed by the Court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and applicable federal statutes."

However, the folks indicted were not from SAGO..I am assuming you meant this

if you have info on any SAGO indictments please link

Nogo,However... (Below threshold)


However, the folks indicted were not from SAGO..I am assuming you meant this ....I never said it was. I made clear in my comment that those indicted were from Kentucky. Sago is a West Virginia mine. I am well acquainted the the indictments in your link. I have been in that mine several times in the last two years.

Dennison's indictment.....http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/02/exsago_mine_for.html

was subsequent to the Sago accident and cited violations before the event. My point is this: after any mine accident, particularly one that involves multiple deaths, MSHA conducts real time audit/inspections and forensic inspections to identify any violations. In the Dennison case, they found:

The 116-count indictment against Robert L. Dennison, 35, is not related to the Jan. 2 explosion that led to the deaths of 12 miners.

However, the feds look for a pattern of problems. Mr. Dennison faces 116 counts times
one year plus 116 times the $100,000 fine.
He is toast.

Some miners simply don't want to face the after the fact scrutiny....


Link fixed on Sago indictme... (Below threshold)
I want to clarify #23.... (Below threshold)

I want to clarify #23.

I am not suggesting that Dennison is in any way responsible for the Sago deaths. I am making the point that the Federal government severely punishes mine managers and supervisors for ANY error, most often in the aftermath of an accident that involved miner deaths.

Also, the fact some miners would take their own lives in the aftermath of such an accident simply reinforces the point that COgirl makes...these guys take safety very seriously and literally put their lives in the hands of their co workers.

Maybe some commenters here who are combat veterans can speak to this concept of teamwork and loyalty.

Paulgovernme... (Below threshold)


government inspections just six times a year are the only thin line protecting the life of miners.

Cite your source.

"Since I'm actually in t... (Below threshold)

"Since I'm actually in the mining business let's correct some things here.

Paul, retreat mining is an accepted and approved method of mining."

Well, HughaSS, if you are in the mining business, you must be the same kind of coal-maggot...er magnate that Bob Murray is.

For all your vaunted claims of knowledge of the coal industry, your claims about retreat mining are extremely dubious given this....

"It is "the most dangerous type of mining there is," said Tony Oppegard, a former top federal and state of Kentucky mine safety official who is now a private attorney in Lexington, Ky., representing miners." and

"The reason the practice is used is that it pays off: The last bit of coal taken from pillars is pure profit, Oppegard said. Plus, if someone violates rules during pillar removal and there is a collapse, the evidence of rule violations are gone, he said."

Further, "Retreat pillar mining is one of the biggest causes of mine roof collapse deaths, according to studies done by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health."

It is hardly just, "the reducing of the size of a pillar" as you obfuscated above.

So, HughaSS, "Since I'm actually in the mining business," you must also be one of those coal-maggots...er magnates.

FrenchFryDo you who ... (Below threshold)

Do you who Tony Oppegard is? No you don't.

He is the Cindy Sheehan of coal activists. How predictable you would cite him as your expert. He is the leading trial attorney in coal litigation in the country. He's about as non partisan a source as AlGore would be on building a new petroleum refinery.

Retreat pillar mining is one of the biggest causes of mine roof collapse deaths, according to studies done by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health."

The biggest cause of rof collapses is poor roof bolting and inherent roof conditions.


French FryFrom you... (Below threshold)

French Fry

From your Forbes link, less the Oppegard filter:

But Bruce Hill, president of UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. which operates and co-owns the mine, called it a safe practice.

"It's been done for the last 70 years and been very successful for those years," Hill said. "It's something that the government approves and signs off on. Coal operators have been able to prove it's safe all along."

It's up to individual mines and "the coal community" to determine whether to use retreat mining and often times unions and management don't seem to mind, said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, which represents mine companies in Washington.

You and Cleo have the same problem. You slap on a link without reading the entire article.

HughS, you are exactly righ... (Below threshold)

HughS, you are exactly right and thank you for the technical explanation of retreat mining. Those who criticize mining don't understand it. They also don't understand why men and women go into combat to protect our country either.

The company I worked for took safety so seriously that we had a department in headquarters with many people devoted to it. We had minesite personnel whose job it was to go into the mines every day to make sure it was safe and procedures were being followed. Reports were delivered daily to the Operations VP and the President. No one talked production or profits until safety issues were addressed.

I've read with disgust the comments published in the media by the UMWA president who is critical of the Utah mine for not accepting their help. The rescue area is not huge and is in an obviously dangerous location. Just how many rescuers do the critics think can be squeezed in there? There are plenty of workers there now who have no ulterior motive for being there. Why bring on ones who do?

Sure mining is a dangerous business, but critics should stop and think about how many products they use every day contain materials that were mined.

COgirl, I don't personally ... (Below threshold)

COgirl, I don't personally like the idea of using buring coal to produce eletrical power. I would even prefer nuclear power use as a better alternative because of the dangers including black lung to miners. I addition, the United Mine Worker Union provides a safe place for the actual miners to voice safety concerns without the fear of losing their job, not deskjob employees like youself. American unionized mines have a 40% lower fatality rate according to one authoritve study that I've seen. That sounds significant enough of a difference for me.

I'm really concerned with this antiunion streak that seems to prevade some here. On one hand you expect miner safety, but then you don't want the added safety for the miners or the ability for them to voice safety concerns without the fear of losing their jobs that a union would bring them. Some dangerous jobs are best served by a union to protect worker safety in my opinion.

The latest accident killed a federal mine safety inspector and the federal authorites have now banned anyone from entering this mine. Doesn't this speak volumes about the unacceptably unsafe conditions at this nonunion mine? It will be interesting to see what the official federal report will cite about the safety conditions in this mine. But killing a federal official isn't a very good way to make a good impression for starters.

Paul, complaining about the... (Below threshold)

Paul, complaining about the safety conditions of a mine that has already suffered a collapse and is in rescue operations is a pretty silly comment.

Paul, my response to Lee at... (Below threshold)

Paul, my response to Lee at Blue.

"Without the protection and strength of a union behind them, that is much less likely to happen than in a unionized company"


Any mining operation that targets an employee in retaliation for reporting a safety violation to MSHA will guarrantee itself this result: severe financial penalty, possible shut down of the mine and possible criminal prosecution.

I made this point on Wizbang. The local U S Attorney just inicted several mine executives, supervisors and the mine owner for doing this very thing.


SPRQ. Nonsense. The lives o... (Below threshold)

SPRQ. Nonsense. The lives of those poor men should inspire more miner safety of some type to protect more lives from such needless and preventable accidents whether it is from improved federal rules or more unionized workers. The tragic Sago Mine accident inspired some improved safety rules.

Bad incidents are only worthwhile if they inspire some change for the better. God bless and protect the miners.

Paul,But kil... (Below threshold)


But killing a federal official isn't a very good way to make a good impression for starters.

Are you serious? Who killed this federal official? Who is running this rescue operation?

American unionized mines have a 40% lower fatality rate according to one authoritve study that I've seen.

BTW, I'd like to see that authoritative study.

HughS, it is often very dif... (Below threshold)

HughS, it is often very difficult to prove harassment of workers who wish to unionize and prosecutions are rare. In Oregon, a Catholic-run nursing home was only prosecuted after it was proved that illegal eavsdropping on workers discussing unionizing was done. In other cases, where business owners hired thugs to harass those who wanted to unionize, it had to be proven that these thugs were connected to the business.

Yes, Paul, your comment abo... (Below threshold)

Yes, Paul, your comment about mine safety during rescue operations remains silly.

PaulI'm familiar wit... (Below threshold)

I'm familiar with the tactics other business owners use to keep their shops from being organized.
I can only tell you from personal experience that safety and the coal industry are very different when it comes to the consequences of covering up safety violations. Read some of my comments up the thread.
Can you name another major industry where executives and supervisory personel go to jail for safety violations? We had a plane crash here in Lexington last year that was indisputably the result of pilot error. Do you think ComAir execs will serve a day in jail for this? The surviving pilot, who took off on the WRONG runway? Of course not. Do you think the Air traffic control officer in the tower will be prosecuted? Of course not.

No allow me to digress to the Utah accident. From what I know (and I know a lot of Murray Energy people) the accident happened during a retreat. Here's the problem Murray and ALL of his supervisors have. Apparently they had not been cleared by MSHA to commence retreating. To obtain this clearance all they had to do was file a revision to the mine plan with the MSHA office in that district. Apparently, that was not done. If that is actually what happened, many of those guys will go to jail.

They won't go to jail for conducting a dangerous mining technique because retreat mining is not dangerous when it is done properly. I repeat, retreat mining is being conducted in hundreds of mines right now, TODAY, with the full approval and authorization of MSHA. If the Murray supervisors did not file a revised mine plan, they will go to jail for not filing the revision because that is a violation of MSHA regulations.

HughS, you make some inform... (Below threshold)

HughS, you make some informative points here. But I think we both share deep sorrow about the mining accident, although we different on how to prevent such further accidents. I'm sure even the owner of the Utah mine is in deep sorrow about the event as well, as has my sympathy as well. He probably had no idea that cutting corners with safety would turn so tragic and now legal problems may dog him for years as a consequence.

On the other hand, the a... (Below threshold)

On the other hand, the ability to report problems to a union at any time without the fear of losing your job makes a huge difference in worker safety.

...you don't want the added safety for the miners or the ability for them to voice safety concerns without the fear of losing their jobs that a union would bring them.

You have no idea what you are talking about and your blind agenda makes you look foolish.

Have you ever even been on MSHAs homepage?

Ever looked at the anonymous National Hazard Reporting Page?

Doesn't this speak volumes about the unacceptably unsafe conditions at this nonunion mine?
The roof control plan enacted during the rescue effort was approved by MSHA and had nothing to do with the prior conditions or practices of the mine (Although the mine's prior roof control plan would have also been an approved plan). The collapse just illustrates the unpredictable geologic conditions at the mine which lead to the collapse. Basically proving the opposite of your point.

I will say this for Bob Mur... (Below threshold)

I will say this for Bob Murray. He spent hours underground during the rescue effort and he clearly could have been killed when the last "bump" killed the rescue team had he been there then.






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