The Upper Big Branch Mine suffered an explosion killing 29 miners
by Audrey Meubus
An explosion claimed the lives of 29 miners in a West Virginia mine last Tuesday.
Rescue workers attempted to locate four more workers that had been trapped in the blast but were unsuccessful.
According to Massey Energy Company, the blast occurred at approximately 3 p.m. at the Upper Big Branch mine, about 50 km south of Charleston.
Rescue efforts had to be delayed due to dangerous amount of poisonous gas that accumulated in the mine as an after effect of the blast. Workers were forced to drill down in order to release the large quantities of methane and smoke held within.
The BBC reported this disaster as “the worst mine disaster in the US since 1984.” President Barack Obama was quick to address Americans after the tragedy, asking all to pray for the missing and the dead. He also ordered all flags in the state of Virginia to be flown at half-mast until sunset on Sunday.
The mine had been subject to previous investigations concerning worker safety. Federal inspectors had already fined Massey Energy more than 392,000 US dollars for serious violations, such as unstable roof or even limited accessibility to airtight safety chambers, over the past year.
This incident raises serious questions about enhanced policies and industry commitments to prioritize worker safety. Several laws, such as the MINER act, came into effect after the 2006 Sago Mine Tragedy, where 14 workers were trapped in a collapsed mine and died before rescue workers could reach them.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) had then promised to enforce stricter guidelines and issue tougher sanctions to mines that are not up to code.
CEO of Massey Energy Don Blankenship spoke up about his company’s safety policy to CNN, assuring that their mines are in “typically better shape than others that are in our area or in the country…our creativity on safety is second to none.”
President Obama will be expected to comment on the sanctions and measure taken to ensure worker