Black lung, unsafety in United States mines

This music video from the USA is called Black Lung (Hazel Dickens).

By Samuel Davidson in the USA:

Upper Big Branch report

Two-thirds of US mining disaster victims had black lung

31 May 2011

Autopsies preformed on 24 of the 29 miners killed in the April 5, 2010, blast at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia last year revealed that 17 had Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (CWP), also called black lung disease.

One of the miners with CWP was only 25 years old. Five had worked in the mines fewer than 10 years, while nine worked in mining for over 30. Four of the 17 worked at the UBB mine almost exclusively. Four of the seven miners who were not diagnosed with black lung were characterized as “anthracosis,” i.e., at a preliminary stage of the disease.

Medical examiners were not able to determine if five of the victims had black lung or not, because there was not enough lung tissue left to perform necessary tests after they were hit by the blast and the resulting fireball.

The fact that 71 percent of the UBB victims tested had black lung is damning proof of the horrendous conditions that existed at the Massey Energy-owned mine. The percentage of working coal miners with the disease in West Virginia is 7.6 percent—although that figure is most likely low.

Such a high rate of black lung disease has not been seen among coal miners for nearly 100 years. At that time, miners first used manually held power drills without water to cut through the coal and rock. Those tools were called “widow makers,” and were soon replaced with drills that had a water hose attached to suppress the dust that the miners would have to breath.

Massey Energy mines are notorious for having high levels of coal dust along with poor ventilation.

Investigators into the UBB disaster say a spark, caused by the mining machine hitting rock, ignited a pocket of methane gas. The explosion set off a much more powerful and destructive coal dust blast, which traveled the miles of underground passageways destroying everything in its path and killing the 29 men.

A report issued earlier this month—issued by an investigative team appointed by then-governor Joe Manchin—concluded that Massey had ignored basic safety precautions in order to maximize production. In particular, the company refused to provide proper ventilation and to dust work areas and machinery with pulverized limestone—both crucial to preventing methane and coal dust explosions.

(See: “Report reveals ‘corporate culture’ of safety violations before fatal blast at West Virginia mine” and “Report on US mine disaster: An indictment of American capitalism”)

Roger Bybee, Working In These Times: “The federal government has just released its report on the Massey Energy mine explosion, which killed 29 West Virginia miners in April 2010. The key revelation is shocking even for those familiar with Massey’s willingness to endanger miners’ lives whenever greater profits could be attained by ignoring risks. The feds’ explosive finding: Massey kept two sets of safety records in order to prevent federal inspectors from learning about the severe hazards in the Upper Big Branch mine that Massey officials already knew about. For its own needs, Massey had to keep a record of safety problems, malfunctioning equipment, maintenance needs and other operational details in the mine”: here.

The conviction of a low-level Massey employee is the first produced by federal investigators looking into the massive explosion on April 5, 2010 that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine: here.

A group of radiologists at Johns Hopkins University Hospital has been instrumental in preventing thousands of coal miners from receiving black lung benefits: here.

BLACK LUNG’S MAKING A COMEBACK “The proportion of coal miners who suffer from an advanced form of black lung disease has skyrocketed in central Appalachia in recent years, according to experts with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In a letter published Monday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the NIOSH scientists wrote that the prevalence of progressive massive fibrosis, or PMF, a particularly lethal form of black lung, had reached its highest rate since the 1970’s in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.” [HuffPost]

A report released last week shows that black lung disease has reached its highest level in the US in four decades, particularly in the Central Appalachian coalfields of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and western Virginia: here.

The rates of black lung disease among coal miners in the central Appalachia states in the US are now at their highest levels in a quarter century, according to a new report by government researchers: here.

CONTROVERSIAL COAL BARON DIES Coal magnate Robert Murray died at his home in Ohio aged 80 less than a week after announcing his retirement as board chairman of major U.S. coal operator, American Consolidated Natural Resource Holdings Inc. Public reports recently stated Murray applied for black lung benefits with the U.S. Department of Labor. The application said Murray was heavily dependent on oxygen. Murray had fought federal mine safety regulations for years, with his company filing an unsuccessful lawsuit in 2014 over regulations to cut the amount of coal dust in coal mines to reduce the incidence of black lung disease. [AP]

1 in 5 privately insured Americans with chronic conditions have problems paying medical bills: here.

10 thoughts on “Black lung, unsafety in United States mines

  1. Tiredness coach crash kills four

    United States: Four people on a coach to New York were killed when it crashed in Virginia on Tuesday.

    It swerved off the motorway and flipped onto its roof.

    Driver Kin Yiucheung is charged with reckless driving, but police say tiredness was also to blame.

    The coach’s owner SkyExpress has been involved in several accidents over the past two years and it has been charged 46 times for its drivers being too tired to drive.


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