Monday, April 05, 2010

Mining Disasters

As a veteran of the coal mining industry, I pay more attention than most to mining disasters. We've had two in the last couple of days that reflect both the similarities and differences between economies.

In China, they're recovering from a disaster that involves the flooding of a mine under development.

Officials said 153 miners were trapped in the unfinished Wangjialing mine in Xiangning, in the northern province of Shanxi, when water gushed in more than a week ago. At least 115 survivors were rescued late on Sunday and throughout Monday.

"The most important thing is the safety of the 38 miners who are still trapped in the pit," provincial official Liu Dezheng told reporters late on Monday.

"Our rescue teams are racing against time, using all the possible means and mobilizing all possible forces to save them."

The survivors clung onto life in the pitch black pit, eating bark to sustain themselves and taking small sips of the dank and dirty water that surrounded them, state media reported.

It was rare good news for China's perilous coal mining industry, the deadliest in the world with thousands killed every year in floods, explosions, collapses and other accidents. Shanxi province is the heartland of that industry.

Meanwhile, in the US, we've had a mine explosion with seven deaths and an ongoing search effort.

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — Seven coal miners were killed and 19 were missing Monday after an explosion rocked an underground mine in West Virginia, the mine owner said.

The blast occurred at a mine in southern West Virginia that was hit with $900,000 in federal fines in 2009 for about 500 alleged safety violations, Labor Department records show.

The mine disaster at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch site is the deadliest in the U.S. since 2006, when 12 miners were killed at the Sago Mine in West Virginia.

Rescue efforts were underway Monday night, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Nine rescue crews were at the mine Monday evening, but it was not clear if they had gone underground, the Associated Press reported.

The similarities are that in both places people are working feverishly to save the trapped miners. The differences are the number of annual fatalities. In 2002 China had almost 7,000 miners killed in accidents. The rate has come down, but last year it was still 2,600 deaths or about 7 miners a day. Meanwhile in the US the rate is about 2 miners a month. (The production rates aren't all that different.)

(Just for the record, both of these are undergound mines. I like to do my mining with the sun on my back.)

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Anonymous Guzzo said...

That's interesting information about you personally. What did you do in the coal mining industry? Were you a coal miner? How did you transition into economics?

April 9, 2010 at 3:01:00 PM MST  
Blogger Scott Gustafson said...

I was in IT. I ran the data processing shops at the Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines in Wyoming.

April 14, 2010 at 7:38:00 PM MST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Terrible news but a really interesting post

November 4, 2014 at 5:33:00 AM MST  

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