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One year after Sago's mine disaster

January 5, 2007 | Page 12

JANUARY 2 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic mine disaster in Sago, W. Va., where 12 miners were killed. Although it's been a year, justice has yet to be served.

I spent the holiday season not too far from where the disaster occurred, and I couldn't help but follow up on what has been going on in the mining community since then.

Not surprisingly, the bosses of the International Coal Group (ICG) have been doing everything they can to avoid responsibility. They call the tragedy an "accident" and claim it was simply caused by "lightning strikes."

Family and friends of the miners argue otherwise. According to them, the tragedy could have been prevented.

In 2005, the Mine Safety and Health Administration recorded 208 violations of federal mine regulations at Sago. There were 18 orders to shut down parts of the mine, but never any orders to shut down the whole mine. The company neglected to properly supply the miners with radio telephones and updated safety equipment in case of any unexpected event.

The first rescue team came several hours after the miners were trapped. This, too, was inexcusable, since there used to be an emergency response team specifically used for mining explosions out of Morgantown, W. Va., which is only an hour away from Sago. Due to federal cost-cutting, the Morgantown rescue team had been eliminated one year prior. Had the team not been eliminated, help would have gotten there a lot quicker.

ICG employees are nonunion, which makes it difficult for the fallen miners' families to win the battle against the ICG bosses.

The ICG's founder, Wilbur Ross, is a prominent Democrat who brags about being a "friend of the miners." In reality, Ross and ICG threaten West Virginia miners to either work in their non-union mines under miserable conditions or have no job at all.

There still are some unionized mines in West Virginia today, but nothing compared to what there used to be. The biggest mine operations nowadays, such as strip mining and mountaintop removal, are primarily done by machines.

Jobs are scarce in the state, so companies such as ICG want West Virginia workers to believe that nonunion jobs with little benefits are all that are available, which is pure hogwash.

Justice for the miners can only begin to be served once the coal bosses not only admit responsibility, but also are held accountable for their repulsive actions, and all of the mines are unionized.
Jeremy Radabaugh, Kent, Ohio

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