Archive | Mining Accidents, Deaths, Cave-Ins and Industrial Disease

The End of a Once Mighty, Still Deadly Industry: the Canada Letter – by Ian Austen (New York Times – October 19, 2018)

Canada’s positions on issues like same-sex marriage, immigration and, most recently, recreational marijuana have given it a reputation for progressiveness. But the government’s announcement this week that it was banning asbestos, a potent cause of cancer, came decades after many other nations took the step.

For more than a century, asbestos was a ubiquitous miracle fiber. Sprayed on the steel structure of buildings and inside ships, it suppressed fires. It was found in a type of home insulation and in roofing tiles, and was used to seal heating ducts.

Asbestos was mixed with concrete to make pipes, woven into flameproof fabrics, and made into gaskets, building supplies and a variety of industrial goods. But inhaling even small quantities of its fibers could be deadly. Continue Reading →

South Africa Gold-Mining Companies Pay High Price to Keep Digging – by Alexandra Wexler and Thandi Ntobela (Wall Street Journal – October 7, 2018)

Three big South African gold-mining companies lost a combined $543 million last year—and human deaths rose for the first time in a decade

JOHANNESBURG—South African gold miners have literally dug themselves into a hole, with the world’s deepest mines threatening the safety of workers and the companies’ ability to make money.

Powered for decades by the cheap labor of apartheid, the country’s deepest gold mines plunge almost 12,000 feet below the earth’s surface—and have provided nearly half the gold bullion and jewelry ever produced.

But as miners have dug ever deeper to retrieve what remains of the world’s largest gold deposits, they have faced an economic and moral conundrum: Gold at these depths is costlier and more dangerous to mine. Continue Reading →

Coal Harms Miners, Too – by The Editors (Bloomberg News – September 25, 2018)

(The Bloomberg View) — By now, black lung disease was supposed to have mostly gone away. The coal industry was supposed to have improved air quality in the mines enough to prevent miners from inhaling the coal dust that inflames, stiffens and blackens their lungs. In fact, the incidence of this deadly and incurable disease is rising.

Bear this in mind the next time President Donald Trump says coal is “clean” or “beautiful,” and moves to encourage use of the world’s dirtiest fuel.

In the late 1990s, the incidence of black lung fell to 5 percent among longtime miners, from more than 30 percent in 1960s, after mine-dust regulations were imposed and systems were put in place to monitor miners’ health. But now the incidence is back up to 10 percent. In central Appalachia (Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia), one in five miners are stricken. Continue Reading →

Philippine Miners Trapped in Typhoon: Drawn by Gold, Drowned in Mud – by Hannah Beech (New York Times – September 17, 2018)

ITOGON, Philippines — A month ago, Jes Feliciano struck gold. The ingot was the size of a coin, and it brought the 16-year-old miner more money than he ever imagined.

On Monday evening, Mr. Feliciano got a reminder that what the Cordillera Mountains give, they also take away. That is when he identified the body of his uncle, Mordecai Bahatan, one of dozens of miners feared killed when a torrent of earth, loosened by a typhoon’s rain, engulfed their encampment in the mountains.

The bounty of the Cordilleras, which form the northern spine of Luzon, the main island in the Philippines, is legendary: gold, hydropower and fertile farmland. But the mountains’ danger is equally fabled to the people who make the cloud-wreathed peaks home. Continue Reading →

Philippine leader again vows to shut mines after deadly landslides – by Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – September 17, 2018)

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte repeated his call on Monday to shut all mines in the country following deadly landslides, hours after his minister halted all small-scale mining in a mountainous gold-rich region.

“If I were to try to do my thing I will close all mining in the Philippines,” he said, presiding over a televised meeting of the government’s disaster response team two days after a powerful typhoon struck.

Duterte has often criticized the mining industry, saying the environmental damage far outweighs any benefit to the economy. His latest comments followed an order earlier by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop all small-scale mining in the Cordillera region, where landslides killed 24 people. Continue Reading →

100 miners feared buried – by Raymund Catindig (The Philippine Star – September 17, 2018)

TUGUEGARAO, Cagayan – Nearly 100 people are feared dead in a landslide that buried a mining shelter in Itogon, Benguet during the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong on Saturday. Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said the small-scale miners were trapped in a bunkhouse buried by a landslide.

Along the path of devastation left by Ompong (international name Mangkhut), officials said at least 56 people were confirmed killed mostly in landslides in mountain areas.

Earlier, two rescue workers died in a landslide in Itogon while trying to retrieve several people buried in the mud. Palangdan said rescue workers retrieved as many as 30 dead from the mining bunkhouse. Continue Reading →

Service acknowledges ‘silent epidemic’ of occupational disease – by Keith Dempsey (Sudbury Star – September 11, 2018)

The original memorial at Leo Gerard Workers’ Memorial Park contains the names of hundreds of workers who have lost their life on the job.

A new display board, which contains the names of 36 individuals who have lost their life due to occupational disease, was introduced during a moving ceremony on Monday, during which family members who lost a loved one were presented with flowers.

“This has a great atmosphere of remembrance, an atmosphere of honouring those who have died,” JP Mrochek, a WSIB worker representative with the United Steelworkers Local 6500, said. “I hope that people who come to read these names think about how (to) limit those names, reduce those names.” Continue Reading →

‘Will I Come Back Dead?’ Human Costs of South African Gold – by Felix Njini (Bloomberg News – September 9 2018)

After more than two decades of improving mine safety since the end of apartheid, South Africa’s progress has stalled with an increase in gold-mining deaths.

More than 50 people have died in the country’s mines in 2018, roughly the same number as this time last year. While annual death tolls are far lower than the 615 in recorded in 1993 — the last full year of apartheid — 2017 witnessed the first rise in 10 years.

Most of the gold mining fatalities are due to workers being crushed under falling rocks, caused by more frequent tremors as companies dig deeper for the precious metal, in some cases reaching depths of more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). The government is investigating Sibanye Gold Ltd.’s operations, where over half the gold mining deaths occurred this year. Continue Reading →

Last man out after 1958 Springhill mine disaster dead at 95 – by Anjuli Patil (CBC News Nova Scotia – September 9, 2018)

Herbert Pepperdine spent more than 8 days underground after deadly 1958 bump

The last man to emerge from the ground after the 1958 Springhill mining disaster has died at age 95. An obituary posted Sunday for Herbert Pepperdine stated the former coal miner died Friday in hospital in Springhill, N.S.

“He was just a treasure to the community. He started working in the mines when he was 14 years old and even after ’58, after he was trapped eight-and-a-half days, he works 10 more years in the last working mine that was in Springhill,” said Tony Somers, a tour guide at the Springhill Miners Museum.

The disaster, known as the bump (like an underground earthquake), occurred Oct. 23, 1958. There were 175 men in the mine at the time; 75 of them were killed. While Pepperdine would occasionally talk about the 1958 disaster, Somers said it wasn’t something he enjoyed. Continue Reading →

Author to recognize potash mine accident sign books (Moab Times Independent – August 23, 2018)

A gathering to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the tragic Cane Creek Potash Mine Explosion near Moab will be held on Aug. 26 and 27.

The Museum of Moab and the Grand County Historical Preservation Commission are sponsoring the event at the Grand Center at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27. David Vaughn will facilitate the night’s event and Kymberly Mele, the author of the book, “Disaster at Cane Creek,” will be one of several speakers. Mele will also sign books before this event, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the same location. The book is a comprehensive account of the 1963 Cane Creek underground potash mine explosion.

A gathering has also been planned for the previous day, Aug. 26, at the Cane Creek Mine Explosion Monument at Intrepid Potash Company (current owners of the facility) west of Moab at 4 p.m. This will be a chance for many to gather near the mine site and see the Cane Creek Monument. For those who need a ride to the mine site they may contact Vaughn. The mine site is located at the end of Potash Road on Hwy. 279. Continue Reading →

Clean up that damn [British Columbia] mine – by Brian Lynch (Juneau Empire – August 17, 2018)

Brian Lynch of Petersburg is a commercial fisheries biologist retired after a 30 year career with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and currently works in Petersburg for Rivers Without Borders on transboundary mining issues.

The Tulsequah Chief mine has been polluting the Taku Watershed with acid mine drainage (AMD) for over 60 years now. This pollution is in violation of British Columbia and Canadian laws and mine permits.

The most recent study done by B.C. found “unacceptable risks” from the toxic drainage. Three years ago the B.C. Mines Minister visited Juneau and promised to remedy the problem, yet nothing has been done. So, why is the pollution still happening?

Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s efforts to draw attention to the need for B.C. to promptly and completely close and clean up the mine site have been helpful, but more is needed to get B.C. to move beyond promises and to take action. Continue Reading →

A Town Named Asbestos Once Produced Most of the World’s Asbestos Supply – by Sarah Laskow (Atlas – August 9, 2018)

Asbestos mining in Canada stopped only in the past decade.

HIDDEN IN OLD BUILDINGS AND under streets, asbestos—once thought of as a “miracle mineral”—is always lurking. Though today it might seem like a relic of the past, under new rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. government could approve new uses of asbestos in consumer products going forward, reports Fast Company.

There are still places where asbestos mining is a notable industry: Canada’s asbestos mines—including the mine at Asbestos, Quebec, once the largest in the world—only closed within the last 10 years, and in Russia, the town of Asbest is still a major center of asbestos production.

Asbestos has many strange properties and has been incorporated into manmade products going back thousands of years. Manufactured, it often comes into human environments as a textile or a dangerous powder, but in nature it appears as six different types of natural silicates. Continue Reading →

For 20 years, miners sickened by toxic aluminum dust couldn’t file compensation claims. Why? – by Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Toronto Star – July 30, 2018)

For two decades, a workers’ compensation board policy made it impossible for Ontario miners exposed to aluminum dust to make claims for neurological disorders because the science did not support a connection between the two.

Now, documents obtained through a freedom of information request show the board ordered a review of the topic and created a so-called “negative entitlement” policy after an independent workers’ compensation tribunal ruled in favour of an aluminum-exposed electrical worker’s neurotoxic disability claim.

The board’s ensuing protocol, instituted months later in 1997, closed the door on further claims of the same nature even though existing research was in fact inconclusive. Continue Reading →

A tenth of U.S. veteran coal miners have black lung disease: NIOSH – by Richard Valdmanis (Reuters U.S. – July 19, 2018)

(Reuters) – More than 10 percent of America’s coal miners with 25 or more years of experience have black lung disease, the highest rate recorded in roughly two decades, according to a government study released on Thursday that showed cases concentrated heavily in central Appalachia.

The study by researchers from the government’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health marks the most authoritative evidence to date of a resurgence of the incurable respiratory illness caused by coal dust, which plagued miners in the 1970s but was nearly eradicated by the 1990s.

“Although many consider black lung a disease of antiquity, it is undeniable that … these contemporary cases resulted from injurious exposures encountered in the 21st century,” the authors said in the report, published in the American Journal of Public Health. Continue Reading →

Navajo Nation urges expansion of radiation exposure law (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – July 10, 2018)

SHIPROCK, N.M. — From the end of World War II to the mid-1980s, about 30 million ton of uranium ore were extracted from lands belonging to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation. Today, across the Navajo Nation, sit dozens of abandoned uranium mines and the high risk to residents of contamination exposure.

Now, the Navajo Nation is urging the U.S. Congress to expand a federal law that compensates people who were exposed to radiation resulting from nuclear bomb tests stemming from the Cold War.

Currently, the law only covers people who lived downwind from nuclear test sites in Nevada, Arizona and Utah, as well as workers in the uranium mining industry in a dozen states. But the tribe says it’s time for Navajo Nation workers after 1971 to be included. Continue Reading →