canary in a coal mine
Coal is a
combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock
strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams.
forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of
later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure.
Coal is composed
primarily of carbon, along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly
fossil fuel, coal forms when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in
turn is converted into lignite, then sub-bituminous coal, after that bituminous
coal, and lastly anthracite.
This involves biological and geological
processes that take place over time.
1968 November 20 Farmington Mine Disaster happens at the
Consol No. 9 coal mine near Farmington, West Virginia.
Laws previously enacted have largely been abandoned by the
new leaner and meaner mine owners of the 21st century.
1976 15 miners go missing after an explosion rocked the coal
Two days later, there is a second explosion where 11 more men are
Investigators conclude the explosion was caused by a
build-up of methane gas due to inadequate ventilation.
In total, 26
2001 Thirteen coal miners die as
the result of two gas explosions September 23 at the Jim Walter Resources Blue
Creek No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Alabama.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announces it will take up
to 60 years and $15 billion to clean up 250,000 acres of land and over 2100
miles of streams contaminated by
abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvania.
2006 On January 2 in the Sago Mine in Sago, West
Virginia a blast and ensuing aftermath trapped thirteen miners for nearly two
Only one miner survived.
International Coal Group was the
non-union coal operator of the Sago Mine.
On May 20 five miners at the
non-union Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County, state of Kentucky, died
after a methane explosion inside a shaft.
On May 24, 2006 a miner
underground at International Coal Group's Sycamore II Mine near Jarvisville,
state of West Virginia, died when he was struck in the head by a heavy wooden
2007 On Jan 13 two
members of a coal mining crew removing pillars in a coal mine near Cucumber
died when a portion of the tunnel collapsed and the men were buried in
debris deep underground.
The crew was working on a process called retreat mining, a practice
that involves cutting away support pillars to extract the last coal deposits by
working back toward the entrance while allowing the ceiling to fall
When Robert Murray acquired a 50% ownership in the Crandall Canyon
coal mine in August, 2006, his incorporation repeatedly petitioned the Mine
Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to allow coal to be extracted from the
north and south barriers - thick walls of coal that ran on both sides of the
main tunnels left by design to hold up the ceilings.
Documents on file
with the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining show Andalex, the prior owner, had
previously decided not to mine those barriers, determining it posed a risk to
In February and March, they engaged in retreat mining in
the north barrier.
Work in the north barrier progressed until March,
when the coal mine suffered a collapse - the tunnel roof fell in, the tunnel
floors heaved and coal exploded from the support pillars due to the pressure of
the mountain bearing down.
The collapse damaged tunnels over a span of
more than 700 feet, and prompted coal mine operators to abandon retreat mining
in the northern barrier.
On June 15 the incorporation received approval
from the Mine Safety and Health Administration to begin cutting away the
support pillars of the south barrier.
On August 6 six miners - Kerry
Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and
Manuel Sanchez - were retreat mining in that south barrier when a 69 acre
On August 16 Dale Ray Black, Brandon Kimber and Gary
Jensen were killed in another collapse while attempting a rescue.
According to 1400 pages of government and congressional records the
Crandall Canyon coal mine was expected to collapse.
Ken Ward Jr. of
The Charleston Gazette (W.Va.) analyzed government reports and data and
found that 9 out of every 10 coal mining deaths nationwide over the last 10
years could have been avoided if existing safety rules had been
Seth Borenstein, Linda J. Johnson and
Lee Mueller of Knight Ridder Newspapers used federal data to find that "since
the Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward
mining companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller
major fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed."
"It is a sign of progress that America is beginning to face the
coal-hard truth about burning black "chunks of solid carbon" to meet our
insatiable hunger for electricity.
Feeding a ravenous coal-fired power
plant requires stripping huge swaths of land each and every year.
feed our energy appetites, we flatten mountains, wrench soil-stabilizing trees
from the ground, devour purple mountains majesty and bury streams under toxic
tons of rubble." - Linda Nicholas
"People across the country are
deciding that coal's multiple bad effects are real, cumulative, permanent and
largely ignored in Washington.
Coal is the main reason the US is the
world's largest source of greenhouse gases.
The ready availability and
relatively low cost (to the power generator), and the fact that we have always
done it this way, gave coal a safe place in the market for 125 years and forged
a large body of well-financed special-interest groups." - Robert Siebert
2009 Industry sponsored front group the
Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security debutes in the summer as a
product of the Adfero Group, a public relation corporation working for Koch
Industries and the Chamber of
2010 Coal dust explosion at
Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine kills twenty-nine out of thirty-one
miners at the site.
The CEO of Massey Energy at the time of the
disaster, Don Blankenship, is convicted in 2015 of conspiring to willfully
violate safety standards but was found not guilty of charges of securities
fraud and making false statements.
strip mining morphs into mountaintop removal
1992 to 2002 Strip mining was just the
In Appalachia they do not just strip the Earth for coal seams
lying a few feet under the surface they take the entire tops off mountains and
dump them in streams!
A rule change allowed strip mining waste to be
reclassified as 'fill'. Twelve hundred miles (1200) of stream bed is 'filled'.
"Mountaintop removal is not only ignorant, as the habitat of wildlife
is destroyed in the name of profit and greed, it is immoral and shortsighted." - Gail
The pillage of Appalachia by the coal industry is being made
possible by officials who view public service as an opportunity for wholesale
2004 Federal judge revokes 11 permits
issued by the Army Corps of Engineers under the Nationwide Permit 21 process
which allowed 'streamlined permitting'.
November the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that mountaintop removal and
streambed filling complied with the Clean Water Act.
permitting' for mountaintop removal and streambed filling is
"I've been regulating mining since 1966 and this is the
most lawless administration I have encountered.
They have no regard for
protecting miners or the people in mining communities.
They are without
The corruption and lawlessness goes all the way to the top."
- Jack Spadaro, former superintendent of the federal Mine Safety and Health
2007 Federal judges decision
supports environmentalists' claims that the Army Corps of Engineers has
improperly issued permits for mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.
the flurry of rule changes that take place on George Walker Bush's exit many
environmental regulations are gutted.
The rule on mountaintop removal
and stream filling is changed to circumvent government oversight.
rule gives coal corporations a legal right to do what required special
"The EPA's own scientists have concluded that
dumping mining waste into streams devastates downstream water quality. By
signing off on this rule, the agency has abdicated its responsibility."
- Edward C. Hopkins
"This is unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for
coal and the entire fossil fuel industry, with flagrant disregard for human
health, the environment and the rule
of law." - Vickie Patton
2009 February 13
the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, overturn
the previous decision to stop mountaintop coal mining.
companies will be able allowed to continue blasting the tops off mountains and
dumping the leftover rock in valleys, burying streams forever.
scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from
mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable." - Margaret
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