Politicians are Idiots #481 – US Edition

A return to my mining roots for this story, while most of the platitudes uttered are fairly standard post-disaster boilerplate one thing didn’t stand out;

“We cannot bring back the men we lost. What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability,” Obama said.

“… we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all our miners are as safe as possible so that a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”

First off there is an alarming presumption that there is someone to hold accountable, underground mining is fundamentally dangerous and shit does happen down there. Now while there certainly are accidents where management is to blame for skimping, the vast preponderance are either an individual making a mistake, the natural danger of underground or normally a bit of both. Like this one for instance. So if the report comes back and says ‘One of the miners skipped on a time consuming procedure and caused the accident’ should we hold one of the victim’s ‘accountable’? Somehow not what I think the President intended, but hey it’s a good sound bite and isn’t that what actually counts?

The second part was just as bad, the one thing I can utterly guarantee is that disasters like this will happen again so long as their are underground mines. Coal mines are by their very nature stuffed full of explosive materials like methane and coal dust and have no shortage of ignition sources, hell the last big disaster, the Sago Mine explosion, was caused by lightning strikes at surface setting off methane in the closed (and flooded) portion of the mine. As the old saying goes the only safe mine is a closed mine. Though on this one this could be what Obama meant, I doubt he’s much in favour of dirty but functional coal mines. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d prefer them to all be closed and replaced with trendy (if useless) windmills.

Final thought for the day, a cheering insight into the attitude of miners. The US Mine Safety chaps have coined the marvellous term  “Fatalgram” for their ‘Why someone died’ updates they issue to the industry.  There is something reassuringly irreverent about that.

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