Mining Accidents Do, and Will Continue to Happen – by Russell Noble

Russell Noble is the editor of the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. This editorial is from the May, 2010 issue.

Accidents but worst of all, deaths have been associated with mining ever since the Stone Age so I’m not surprised when I hear of people getting hurt or even killed by rocks.

Given they are harder than humans in their natural makeup, it’s no wonder that people nearly always come out second when rocks decide to fight back. Even “hard-as-rock” individuals are no match for their namesakes.

Cave-ins, slides, or even chips flying from the blow of a hammer or shrapnel from an unplanned explosion usually results in injuries or worse and as we all know, the latter has made too many headlines lately.

China’s Wangjianling coal mine in Xiangning, Barrick’s Bulyanhulu gold mine in Tanzania and most recently Massey Energy’s disaster in West Virginia are just few examples of what I’m talking about and being realistic about it all, similar occurrences will happen again, and again, and again.

Regardless of how many safety rules and regulations are written and how many inspections are supposedly made, there will always be a mine somewhere in the world that does not come up to scratch.

In fact, I’m sure of it because as the value and demand for precious metals continues to increase on the world markets, there will also be an equal increase in the number of people going after those metals and you can bet they won’t all be digging in safe soils.

History shows that most mine accidents involve cave-ins of varying sorts; be they a roof, wall or total structural failure. More recent mishaps have also involved fires, floods or poisonous gases but regardless of what the cause, working underground is still bloody dangerous.

Most of today’s mine owners and operators are extremely safety conscious and law abiding, especially here in Canada, but like I said earlier, the value of precious metals is going to result in some miners “going for the gold” regardless of the rules or moreover, any care for safety.

To illustrate this further, have a look at a couple of photos below I took at a coal mine recently where the operator uncovered the workings of “bootleg” miners who once stole coal right from under the owner’s nose.

Illegal mines like this are now history in this part of the world but as I mentioned earlier, you can bet there are plenty of them still out there somewhere and you can also bet they’re going to collapse and lives will be lost.

When they do, more headlines will be written but then again, perhaps not because who will know and in many countries, even care?