Archive | Mining Tragedies

Former Massey Energy C.E.O. Guilty in Deadly Coal Mine Blast – by Alan Blinder (New York Times – December 3, 2015)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Donald L. Blankenship, a titan of the nation’s coal industry whose approach to business was scrutinized and scorned after 29 workers were killed at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, was convicted Thursday of a federal charge of conspiring to violate mine safety standards, part of a case that emerged after the accident, the deadliest in mining in the United States in decades.

The verdict reached by a federal jury here made Mr. Blankenship, 65, the most prominent American coal executive ever to be convicted of a charge connected to the deaths of miners. He had been accused of conspiring to violate mine safety regulations, as well as of deceiving investors and regulators; prosecutors secured a conviction on only one of the three charges. Continue Reading →

AUDIO: Musselwhite mine death highlights need for new mine safety regulations (CBC News Thunder Bay – November 27, 2015)

Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer says changes are coming to regulations dealing with safety in underground mines.

A death this week at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine comes after a provincial review on mining safety, led by George Gritziotis. He told CBC News that, because of that review, regulations are now being proposed to mandate higher safety standards.

“The review was about being able to be very focused and targeted on what those high hazards and associated risks are that we need to go after right away.” Continue Reading →

Myanmar Continues Search After Deadly Landslide at Jade Mine – by Thomas Fuller (New York Times – November 23, 2015)

BANGKOK — It was known locally as Plastic Village, a sprawling encampment made from tarps and scraps of trash and inhabited by workers who scavenged for jade in the rugged hills of northern Myanmar.

Rescue workers on Monday continued to dig through the remnants of the encampment after a landslide over the weekend buried it along with at least 120 people.

The landslide was Myanmar’s worst jade mining disaster in recent years, highlighting the primitive conditions of an industry that is highly lucrative but notorious for its secrecy and hazardous working conditions. Continue Reading →

Hopes fade for 100 miners missing after landslide near Myanmar jade mine – by Aung Hla Tun (Reuters U.S. – Novmeber 23, 2015)

YANGON – Hopes faded on Monday that any of an estimated 100 people missing would be found alive after a landslide in northern Myanmar buried an encampment near a jade mine, and officials said it was still unclear how many people were living in the area.

Rescue workers had recovered 113 bodies when the search was suspended on Monday evening, Khin Kyaw, a local police officer, told Reuters. Two of the bodies recovered were women, he said.

Heavy equipment has been brought in to assist the digging in Hpakant, the site of the landslide in a mountainous area in the northern Kachin State that produces some of the world’s highest-quality jade. Continue Reading →

[Sudbury Glencore] Fatality at Nickel Rim Mine – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – October 20, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A Ministry of Labour inspector was on the way at noon to the scene of a fatality at Glencore’s Nickel Rim South Mine.

An employee, a member of Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor, was killed when a piece of machinery fell on him. The union represents production and maintenance workers.

Labour ministry spokeswoman Janet Deline confirmed a worker died this morning at the mine owned by Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, a Glencore company.

Deline said paramedics were on the scene and Greater Sudbury Police Service officials were “holding” the site of the accident.

The company issued a statement a few hours after the accident, saying: “We confirm a fatality underground at our Nickel Rim South Mine this morning. Continue Reading →

‘Blood diamonds’ dug from African mines by children as young as 11, gold taken from 25m underwater by kids aged 9: The slave labour scandal behind the jewellery hanging around your neck – by Imogen Calderwood (Daily Mail – October 1, 2015)

  • Children as young as 11 are working alongside adults in the ‘blood diamond’ trade in the Central African Republic
  • The chain of supply crosses so many country borders that most people don’t know where their diamonds originated
  • Thousands of children as young as nine work in ‘absolutely terrifying’ conditions in gold mines in the Philippines
  • Hard-hitting reports into the diamond and gold trade released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

The jewellery around your neck and on your fingers is still being dug out of the earth by slave children facing extreme danger, two new hard-hitting reports have revealed.

Amnesty International has released a stark warning that the global diamond market is about to be flooded with ‘blood diamonds’ prised from mines by children as young as 11. Continue Reading →

The Fall Of King Coal – by Tim Murphy (Mother Jones Magazine – November/December 2015)

After 29 men died in his company’s mine, Don Blankenship is fighting to stay out of prison. But he’s already won the battle to convert coal country to his brand of conservative politics.

THE PEOPLE OF the Kentucky and West Virginia borderland, where Don Blankenship’s family has lived for generations, have always clustered, out of tradition and necessity, along river valleys and in low-lying hollows amid the nubby Appalachian peaks. The winding roads there, crumbling under the weight of overloaded Mack trucks, are lined with trailers like the one Blankenship grew up in, many with “Friend of Coal” placards in their windows.

But at the peak of his 18-year reign as the CEO of coal giant Massey Energy—as if in a symbolic nod to his rise from hardscrabble roots—Blankenship erected a four-story villa that evoked a fairy-tale castle on a Kentucky mountaintop. It was a short helicopter ride from his primary home, a gated estate on the other side of the Tug Fork River. From a white tower atop his Massey-owned mountain retreat, Blankenship could look out on the coal yards and misty hollows of West Virginia’s Mingo County like a king surveying his domain.

Blankenship earned his way to this summit by reducing many of the nearby mountaintops to heaps of gravel and harvesting the bituminous seams inside them to nearly triple his company’s revenue. Continue Reading →

Rights Group: Filipino Child Miners Risk Lives in Gold Mines (Associated Press/New York Times – September 29, 2015)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government has failed to protect thousands of children, some as young as 9 years old, who risk their lives by working in illegal, small-scale gold mines under terrifying conditions, a human rights group said Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch’s report said the children work in unstable 25-meter (80-foot) deep pits or underwater along coastal shores or rivers, processing gold with mercury, a toxic metal that can cause irreversible health damage. Those who dive for gold stay underwater for several hours at a time in 10-meter- (30-foot-) deep shafts, receiving air through a tube attached to an air compressor.

The New York-based group says it interviewed 135 people, including 65 child miners from 9 to 17 years of age, in eastern Camarines Norte and Masbate provinces in 2014 and 2015.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told the Associated Press that the government is addressing the problem by prosecuting those forcing the children to work, and by providing the children with health, education and livelihood programs. Continue Reading →

Forced labour built Canada mine in Eritrea, ex-official says – by Chris Arsenault (Reuters/Globe and Mail – September 18, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Hundreds of men drafted into Eritrea’s army were used as forced labour to build a Canadian company’s copper-gold mine in central Eritrea, according to a former construction official, in a case testing the global responsibility of foreign firms to workers.

Claims of forced labour at the Bisha mine, jointly owned by Nevsun Resources Ltd. and state-owned Eritrean National Mining Corp., date back to 2008 but are now the subject of a class-action lawsuit at British Columbia’s Supreme Court.

Eritrean plaintiffs, living in exile in Ethiopia, say in the lawsuit filed last November that they were forced to build the only operating mine in the Horn of Africa country during national service, enduring filthy conditions, little food or scarce payment.

Although Nevsun was not directly responsible for hiring local staff – that was done through local contractor firm Segen – plaintiffs argue the Canadian company was complicit in their servitude, a claim the Vancouver-based company denies. Continue Reading →

Lacking proof, Mitsubishi unwilling to apologize to Canadian POWs [Mine slave labour] – by Iain Marlow (Globe and Mail – July 24, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

On Christmas morning, 1944, 23-year-old Corporal George Peterson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was told by his Japanese guards that he wouldn’t have to go down the Mitsubishi-owned coal mine that day.

Mr. Peterson, who had already spent three grueling years as a prisoner of war, said it looked as though the POWs were about to get a break from the slave-like working conditions. The guards first dragged out a fir tree, then brought out extra food for the famished prisoners, including riceballs and beer.

“They lined us up behind the table and took a picture,” says Mr. Peterson, now 94. But then “they said we could go back down the mine. … When we came up from the mine at about 5 p.m., the guards were laughing at us, saying the food was pretty good. We laughed right back, because we were trying not to let them know how much it hurt.”

Nearly 70 years after the end of the Second World War, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. has begun to issue historic apologies to POWs – but it has not yet apologized to Canadians. Continue Reading →

Zimbabwe’s desperate gold rush poisons children with mercury – by Andrew Mambondiyani (Reuters U.S. – July 13, 2015)

MUTARE, Zimbabwe, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cynthia Dzimbati was exhausted. Her three-month-old baby strapped to her back and panning dish in hand, she had spent the whole day working the Mutare River for not one single ounce of gold.

“This is now my life. I lost my job,” said the 31-year old single mother, looking so worn out she could easily have passed for 50. “I have three children to feed.”

Dzimbati poured a few drops of mercury into a bowl of dirty water and stirred it with her bare hands.

The gold in the river is growing more scarce these days, she said, so the illegal artisanal miners are relying on mercury, a highly toxic substance supplied by the smugglers who buy their product, to trap the precious metal from the muddy river waters in the eastern borders of Zimbabwe.

Public health and environmental experts say the consequences are disastrous. Mercury is contaminating drinking water for miles around and causing neurological damage, especially to children. Continue Reading →

The Marikana massacre report has brought no justice and no relief – by Jack Shenker (The Guardian – July 3, 2015)

Almost three years have passed since 34 men were shot dead on a hillside in South Africa, after asking for a living wage.

All of them had spent their working lives far below the Earth’s surface, blasting rocks in order to extract some of the metals that sit inside whatever computer or mobile phone you’re looking at right now. It’s hot, dangerous and dirty work, which leaves the body cramped and sore. Each of the miners had a name, a family and a story to tell, a past and a future.

Their relatives have waited more than 1,000 days to find out who was responsible for cutting those stories short and why. Last week, the findings of a judicial inquiry into the killings were finally made public. Most of the families missed the start of a speech by the South African president, Jacob Zuma, because the government hadn’t bothered to give them proper notice that a statement was imminent. The rest came through only in fragments, via a single erratic laptop feed in a language that many could not understand.

The inquiry’s report, as one commentator aptly observed, proved to be an exercise in throat-clearing. By the time Zuma’s summation was over, only one thing was clear: the wait for truth and accountability continues. Continue Reading →

[Mine workers as slaves] Japan’s UNESCO heritage bid draws ire over past labour abuse – by Elaine Kurtenach (Associated Press/Metro News – June 30, 2015)

GUNKANJIMA, Japan – Of countless ghostly abandoned factories and mines in Japan, this fortress island near Nagasaki is among the most notorious. It is also a source of national pride.

Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island, is one of 23 old industrial facilities seeking UNESCO’s recognition as world heritage “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” meant to illustrate Japan’s rapid transformation from a feudal farming society into an industrial power at the end of the 19th century.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is expected to approve the proposal during a meeting being held in Bonn, Germany, through July 9 after Japan and South Korea informally agreed on a promise to acknowledge, though it is unclear how, that Koreans were among the people who toiled at Gunkanjima and some other sites. The compromise also includes an agreement by Japan to support South Korean proposals for some world heritage site listings.

Japan’s bid for UNESCO recognition is confined to the 1868-1912 era of the Meiji Emperor, who presided over the country’s rush to industrialize and catch up with Western colonial powers. It excludes the years that followed, when Japan annexed Korea and eventually invaded China and other parts of Asia before and during World War II. Continue Reading →

Thousands of children rescued from dangerous work in Tanzania gold mines – by Kizito Makoye (Reuters U.S. – June 30, 2015)

DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than 12,000 children have been rescued in the past three years from gold mines in northern Tanzania, according to children’s rights groups who fear thousands more youngsters are being forced to work in hazardous conditions for a pittance.

Plan International said the children from Geita region in northern Tanzania are being identified and reintegrated back into school as part of a donor-funded initiative to clamp down on child labor involving children as young as eight.

Police, government social welfare officers and NGO workers were all involved in the mission to rescue the children.

The children’s charity Plan said thousands of boys and girls are lured to work in gold mines in northern and western Tanzania every year in the hope of a better life – but many find themselves stuck in a cycle of poverty and despair.

Their health is also put at risk by direct exposure to mercury used to process gold ore and girls often end up selling sex which exposes them to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Continue Reading →

S.Africa’s mine massacre town sees little change three years on – by Zandi Shabalala (Reuters U.K. – June 26, 2015)

MARIKANA, South Africa, June 26 (Reuters) – Almost three years after South African police shot 34 striking miners dead outside platinum producer Lonmin’s Marikana mine, little has changed in this hardscrabble town that has become a symbol of post-apartheid hardship and inequities.

Cows and pigs root through litter-strewn dirt roads that snake past corrugated iron shacks – a picture of grinding poverty atop one of the world’s wealthiest mineral deposits.

A long-awaited probe into the slayings, unveiled on Thursday by President Jacob Zuma, found Lonmin “did not respond appropriately” to the escalating violence during a wildcat strike in August of 2012.

Though the report slammed Lonmin for failing to comply with its social and housing obligations, few in Marikana felt it would make much difference.

Labour tensions in South Africa’s mines continue, stemming in part from squalid living conditions that have persisted two decades after the end of apartheid. Continue Reading →