Three mine resue workers were killed and six injured while in engaged in rescue efforts authorized and approved by Richard Stickler, chief of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, who was appointed by George Bush as an interim appointee, because during the Republican controlled 109th congress, Bush could not even get support from Republicans to appoint him.
Forty Seven people died in coal mining accidents in 2006, compared to 22 the year before, according to the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration. These three new deaths bring the count for 2007 up to 20 coal miner deaths.
The rescue effort, in its 11th day, has been used by mine co-owner Bob Murray, chief of Murray Energy Corp as a bully pulpit to sell his claim that an earthquake caused the original mine cave-in that led to the trapping of the six miners who the resuers were attempting to dig out. Murray has even used the massive attention the media has given him to sell his anti-global warming, pro-coal message.
Murray, reportedly a major contributor to the Republican party, has been said to have threatened safety regulators, that they would lose their jobs because of his political connections.
Murray's Crandall Mine, in Utah, is non-union. Mines worked by unions have tougher safety requirements. On the contrary, safety seems to be a concept that Murray doesn't factor very high in the management of the 11 mines his company owns in four states-- mines that 3000 miners mined 20 million tons of coal out of in 2006, worth an estimated $840+ million.
People's Weekly World reported,
this is not the first time his company has been cited for breaking federal mine safety laws. According to MSHA records, since January 2004 MSHA cited the Crandall Canyon mine for 325 violations, 118 of them considered serious enough to have possibly caused death or injury.
"For millionaire coal operator Robert E. Murray, owner of Crandall Canyon mine, this is not the first time his company has been cited for breaking federal mine safety laws. According to MSHA records, since January 2004 MSHA cited the Crandall Canyon mine for 325 violations, 118 of them considered serious enough to have possibly caused death or injury.
The company was fined a total of $6,000 for the violations, but there is no record of their payment of the fines or corrections of the problems. The mine has been inspected six times so far this year, and fined $3,773 for 40 violations.
A mine organized by the UMWA would not tolerate such dangerous conditions. “When you are talking about [almost 120 violations in three years], that would be alarming to me,” said the union’s western regional director, Bob Butero, based in Denver. “If it were one of our union mines, we wouldn’t allow that pattern to continue.” A union organizing effort at Crandall Canyon several years ago failed.
Meanwhile, mine owner Murray, CEO of Cleveland-area-based Murray Energy Corp., is busy counting up profits and writing checks to Republican candidates.
Murray Energy is the 12th largest coal company in the country.
It should come as no surprise that, while there are no records that Murray ever wrote a check to a Democratic candidate for any office, anywhere, there is a long paper trail of contributions to Republicans. The Federal Elections Commission reports that since 2005, Murray, through the Murray Energy Corp. Political Action Committee, has contributed more than $155,000 to GOP candidates.
But maybe this disaster, in spite of Murray's record of violations, and the way he's used his Republican connections to bully regulators, this was not due to Murray's apparent failure to meet safety regulations.
Danny Schecter, of mediachannel, reports,
Meredith Vieira of the Today show asked Murray, “Since January of 2004 it’s been cited 325 times by the federal government for violations, more than 100 of those considered potential dangers to the miners…How can you be so sure that this accident isn’t the result of a problem with the mine itself?”
He had only owned the mine for about a year, Murray answered, and he said his track record in owning mines for more than 19 years is admirable."