November 21, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

While families in eastern Ukraine are mourning the death of 90 coal miners from the Zasaidko coal mine, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said:

“This accident has proven once again that a human is powerless before nature.”

This disaster was no accident.  This was no unpredictable force of nature.  It was a massive methane explosion that could have–should have–been prevented.  Shame on Yanukovych for suggesting the Ukrainian coal industry is powerless to stop them. 

Underground coal mining and methane go hand-in-hand.  Prime Minister Yanukovych may not know this, but miners have known it for ages.  When the methane concentration in a mine is between 5-15%, it is highly explosive.  That’s the reason methane gas levels are supposed to be check so frequently (e.g., pre-shift, on-shift), and when they merely start to creep in a dangerous direction, immediate measures must be taken.  The principal ways to prevent methane explosions are ventilation (and more ventilation!), rock dusting to control coal dust (which can fuel an explosion), and prohibiting ignition sources underground (e.g., open flames, sparks from electrical equipment.)

Mr. Mykola Ishchenko, whose 28-year old son was killed in the November 18 disaster said:

“Safety requirements are violated there permanently.  The system of ventilation in the shaft was not working for two days before the explosion.”

The head of Ukraine’s indpendent trade union for miners, Mr. Mykhaylo Volynets said:

“An accident like this could have been prevented if the state had carried out its responsibilities properly and controlled the situation in the industry.  [The industry is riddled with] “corruption and irresponsible behavior.”

Yanukovych’s quip: “This accident has proven once again that a human is powerless before nature” is a slap in the face to the deceased miners’ families.  It’s also an insult to workers who have complained about the disregard for safety at this coal mine and others in the Ukraine.

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