In the last few days, we have all been in a state of shock over the situation in Utah. Like several of my colleagues, I have been praying for the trapped Utah miners and their families and friends. I have been tuning in to the press conferences with mine owner Bob Murray, and I have been refreshing CNN’s website over and over again to get the latest news on the rescue efforts.
Today, I walked passed a yellowed newspaper article from the Washington Post we hung on the side of a filing cabinet 20 months ago, in January 2006.
“Senators Say Budget Cuts Have Left Mines Unsafe” the headline proclaims, referring to a hearing on the Sago Mine disaster. I looked at the picture:
…and I thought to myself How long ago was this again?
20 months ago, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) held this device up and asked the same question I’m asking now: How much do these things cost? Why don’t we have these in all American mines?
I am so tired of hearing mining companies proclaim that they are doing everything they can to protect their miners, when the fact is that they simply are not. There is no reason why every mine in this country could not have tracking systems set up to allow them to track the location of every miner. There is no reason why we are digging holes into the ground to get to these men without knowing for sure that we are digging in the right place. It is beyond absurd at this point. It’s downright disgraceful.
In April 2006, two Australian miners were trapped underground for several days before their rescue. But the Australians weren’t telling the families they didn’t know where their men were. On the contrary, those families were able to send the men notes through a tube. The men were even sent iPods so they could listen to their favorite music while they awaited rescue.
And so I ask, again: what are we doing? Why have we still not learned our lesson? How many lives must be lost, and how many more days… or months… or years… must miners go to work not knowing if they’ll make it home again?
Note: Photo taken by Washington Post photographer Melina Mara.Â Readers may click on the image to enlarge it.