Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mining News Updates

 Coal-mining disasters often expose an economic system’s injustices

I recently heard about a new book that recounts the story of the 33 trapped miners in Chile in 2010, a story that was widely covered in America in typical wall to wall coverage of nothing with little history, context or reflection after the events have ended.  (War coverage is another similar example, see for example Nathan Fuller's updates on US interventions in Syria and Libya, and the media's "in depth" coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan)

According to the Pew Research Center coverage of the Chilean earthquake in 2010 fared better than Pakistan's flood disaster, but even while Haiti's earthquake got more coverage overall, even that story faded rather quickly from US news after just 3 weeks.  Four years after the Haiti earthquake, rebuilding continues and immense humanitarian needs remain.
the United Nations has developed a two-year support plan to the Haitian National Plan to eliminate cholera and which focuses on four pillars: epidemiological surveillance; health promotion; medical treatment; and water, hygiene and sanitation.
According to the World Bank, about 38 per cent of Haitians lack access to safe drinking water, and only 24 percent of Haitian families has access to improved sanitation.
As is often the case, different media outlets used the story to push their own agendas and spin, such as the Wall Street Journal proclaiming that 
Capitalism Saved the Miners
The profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at the mine rescue site.
The article explains that the drill bit that rescued the miners was developed by a company solely for making a profit, never-mind that capitalism also was the reason they were down there in the first place.  The Wall Street Journal also leaves out the role of the state owned mining company Codelco's role in financing the rescue operation because the privately held company couldn't afford it, an uncomfortable fact when praising capitalism for rescuing the miners that capitalism trapped there in the first place.

The mine was the San José Mine owned by the private company Compañía Minera San Esteban Primera (San Esteban Primera Mining Company) and it was public pressure that led the federal government's state-owned mining company Codelco that financed the rescue operation.

The mine had a history of safety issues and dangerous injuries and deaths before the collapse, and a 3 year investigation led to no charges filed.
Union leaders had persisted in warning of the hazards of the San José mine, where accidents and injuries were commonplace in the years leading up to the collapse. In 2004, a miner died as a result of a cave-in, and two years later another accident claimed a life. But the San Esteban Mining Company, which controlled the mine, continued to attract workers with higher-than-average salaries, although the work was known to be perilous.
Then in January 2007, a geologist was killed during a rock explosion in the mine and Sernageomin ordered it closed until new safety measures were in effect. But a year later, without the new measures fully in place, it was back in operation. Just two months before the 2010 accident, a miner’s leg was amputated as a result of another accident.
Even a year later while there had been improvements made, safety was still an issue for mine workers.

From The Guardian
Chile miners: rescue joy must not derail focus on why mine collapse happened
It remains valid to ask how the miners' plight could have arisen in a country lauded for its development progress
But with all the attention the trapped miners got at the time, other stories from Chile went unreported, a lot of which are reverberations from the 1973 coup.

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