In Montcoal, West Virginia, April 5, 2010, a mine exploded at 3 p.m. at the Upper Big Branch mine leaving many miners left for dead. Tuesday morning, April 6, 2010, the death toll has reached at least 25, making it the worst mining accident in the US since December 19, 1984 where 27 workers died in a fire at the Wilberg Mine in Orangeville, Utah. A recovery operation was called off Tuesday morning because high levels of methane gas made it unsafe for rescuers. Four miners are still left missing and it is likely that they have been killed as well. The state’s mine health safety director, Ronald L. Wooten said “The bodies will not be recovered until the mine is ventilated.” The explosion has left “train rails looking like they had been twisted like a pretzel.” The explosion destroyed all communication lines inside the mine. However, there were two rescue chambers near the site of the explosion, and if the miners reached them, the chambers are stocked with food, water, and enough air for them to live for four days. Dennis O’Dell said the explosion may have been caused by a buildup of methane gas in a sealed-off section of the mine. The ignition source may have been from a device that carries workers in and out of the mine.
While some believe this was just misfortune, others believe that it was due to Upper Big Branch mine’s poor safety regulations. The mine had 458 violations in 2009, with $897,325 in safety fines, of which it has paid $168, 393. Federal regulations passed after the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia as well. The regulations increased the monitoring of air quality in active AND sealed sections of mines to avoid methane buildup. Personally, I think this has been such a tragedy. It sounds to me though that this whole disaster has occurred due to violations to federal regulations. I would like to know why operations are being called off though when it is not clear if there are any survivors or not? Is there really no way to speed up the process? Four days worth of food, water, and air would give these miners until hopefully Friday if they have reached the rescue chambers. To even succeed in finding one survivor would be a miracle. I sure hope they do.