Energy Ink

Disasters continue to plague coal mining

Has innovation bypassed the age-old practice of gouging black gold from the Earth?

Guest Post

April 08, 2010

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The safety record of coal mining is once again being debated by think tanks, pundits and legislators, following this week’s disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia on Monday. This comes after a dramatic rescue at the half-built Wangjialing mine in northern China, which flooded with millions of gallons of water and trapped 100-plus workers.

The NY Times blog Room for Debate asks the obvious question: at a time of unparalleled technological innovation (including the promise of clean coal) in the energy sector as a whole, why do we still have mining disasters?

Part of the danger, in Appalachia anyway, is that easily accessible reserves are all but tapped out. Here’s Jeff Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future:

Underground coal mining is especially risky in Appalachia, where they have been mining coal for 150 years, and where much of the easy-to-get coal has long been mined out. What’s left is increasingly difficult and dangerous to extract, even with today’s improved mining technology. Simply put, if you’re mining coal in these kinds of conditions, you’re going to have accidents, and workers are going to die.

More posts by Jeff Lewis

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