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Friday, August 05, 2005

Coal Mining Sucks

From the AP:
1 Dead, 1 Missing in Ky. Mining Accident:

A roof collapse at a Kentucky coal mine killed one miner Thursday, and rescue crews spent most of the day digging through a wall of rocks in search of another miner who was presumed dead.

There has been no communication, no visible evidence that this miner is alive, said Holly McCoy-Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.

A section of mine roof 20 feet wide, 20 feet long and 11 feet high collapsed on the workers late Wednesday, said Paris Charles, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. The miners were part of a crew of about eight men who were performing retreat mining — a dangerous process of removing coal pillars that support the roof.
As I mentioned before, I used to be a coal miner. I'm glad I was able to get out of it.
As a young kid, I was drawn to the mines by the lure of good pay. But just like any other good paying job, you sort of paint yourself into a corner. Especially when you're "young, dumb, and fulla cum". You buy toys, play a lot, spend all your money, and keep working in the mine.
Eventually, you get married and have a family, whereupon you can't quit because you have this family to support. Few other jobs in the area would pay nearly as well, so there you are. Stuck in the mine.
But the mine I was working caught fire, had to be shut down, and everyone was eventually laid off. That's when I was more or less forced to make a career change, or live off wlefare until my number came up on the hiring panel, which could take months or even years.

Anyway, I digress...
Retreat mining, or more commonly know by miners as 'pulling pillars', is a very dangerous and extremely nervewracking experience.
Picture a town, with streets and blocks. The coal is mined where the 'streets' would be, and the 'blocks' would be left alone until you reach the end of the coal. (Example.)
The 'end' could be the other side of the mountain (Example.), a big fault or whatever. You then start removing the 'blocks' a specific way.

You start by splitting the pillar in half, then splitting each of the halves, then you attempt to extract all you can from those quarters before the roof becomse too unstable. You then retreat and wait for the roof to cave.
This is 'controlled cave' and is an important part of the process. It releases weight in the mined out area. If the controlled cave doesn't occur, the roof farther away from the working area becomes too heavy and makes a death trap of the whole area.

But as the above story points out, there are sometimes uncontrolled caves, where miners and machinery get buried.
We had that happen on our crew once. Two co-workers were buried in a roof fall which measured roughly 20' X 30'. They both got busted up quite bad. One with a few broken bones and a truckload of bruises. The other had numerous broken bones, crushed flesh, internal injuries and coal embedded in his skin. He barely made it.

Anyway, I don't miss coal mining. I do empathize with the miners who get to dig their friends out of that shit though.


Update: For some reason I can't seem to get a goddamn post to post in it's entirety.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking back, I had it easy. Hard-rock mining is way safer than coal mining. You don't hear about hard-rock miners being caught underground and fire, though a concern, almost never a real issue. I recall hearing of only one fire in Colorado from the old miners. They used the story to make a point about using your safety gear.