When six miners died in the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah last August 6, it was no “accident” — it was deliberate murder for profit. Ten days later three more workers died from a tunnel collapse while trying to rescue those six. All nine deaths were completely avoidable.
The mine owner, Robert Murray, claimed it was due to an “earthquake.” This lie was exposed in a recent Congressional report, but don’t hold your breath expecting anything will be done by the bosses’ politicians to prevent future murders.
Murray’s operation practices “retreat mining.” This method involves removing the massive coal pillars that support the mine’s roof. As miners move backwards towards the entrance, this allows sections of the mine to collapse, “the technique of doubling back to carve final profits from the coal pillars that brace the mine.” (NY Times, 5/9) With coal prices soaring, the mine owners find it extremely profitable to extract every last bit of coal, over the dead bodies of the miners who dig out the coal.
In March 2007, a similar collapse occurred in the same mine, but the pillars and mine roof didn’t fall on any miners. However, the Crandall bosses played down that incident, which should have led to the banning of retreat mining.
In fact, before the August disaster, miners — including one of the six who died — reported that sections of the mine floor had been buckling up from the intense pressure placed upon it. They said the mine bosses knew about the problem but continued operations anyway.
Then, on August 6, a series of pillars burst apart, causing a mine cave-in so powerful it registered 3.9 on the Richter scale. It killed the six miners, entombing them in the mine. Their bodies were never recovered. Three were immigrants from Mexico, forced by the bosses’ racism to work on the more dangerous, unsafe jobs, a condition which then spreads to all workers. Ten days later, three more miners, working to reach the six who were trapped, were killed as well when a 1,500-foot section of the tunnel collapsed on them.
If the company had stopped this “retreat mining” after the March 2007 collapse, all these miners would be alive today. But the owners concealed the extent of that incident, leading to the August murders.
Now a big hue and cry is rising, from the Congressional report to NY Times’ editorials, calling for a “criminal inquiry” and new safety laws. But the report itself upholds the legitimacy of “retreat mining.” And the Mine Safety and Health Administration is notorious for being run by pro-industry appointees, who have done next to nothing about enforcing current laws. The “worst” that happens is a slap on the wrist for mine owners’ violations.
Some coal bosses say domestic coal could become an “alternative” fuel to the U.S. rulers’ dependence on imported oil from war-torn regions and anti-U.S. governments. Daydreaming! Modern industry and armies can’t run without oil. Besides, the biggest U.S. bosses, like Exxon-Mobil, make multi-billion-dollar profits from oil; the Pentagon itself is geared to preventing U.S. imperialist rivals from grabbing control of the flow of oil. But — oil or coal — capitalist industries’ main goal is reaping maximum profits. Killing workers, including ignoring their safety, is part of that process. Only a communist society, where workers’ lives are the first priority and the fruit of their labors will be shared by the whole working class, not a few profiteers, will end this carnage.