Free Essay About How Does The US Compare In Safety To Other Countries With Mining Industries?
Mining refers to the extraction of valuable mineral resources from the earth’s crust. While some minerals are found at the earth’s surface, other minerals are found deeply below the earth’s surface. Irrespective of their location in the crust, the extraction of minerals is a complex process often fraught with danger. America’s mining industry has been supported by the increased demand for raw materials by other sectors of the economy. As the demand for mineral resources has increased, mining has become more complicated leading to accidents. Mine disasters refer to accidents that occur during mining activities that result in five or more fatalities. Available records point to over 700 mining disasters in America that have been recorded. Increased scientific advances and precautionary measures have, however, led to reduced accidents despite increased mining.
As more and more minerals are extracted from the earth’s crust, mine shafts have had to be dug deeper to access the available ores. Such intensive mining has led to routine accidents that involve two to three fatalities. Accidents usually occur as result of concentration of flammable gasses in mining chambers, the collapse of mining shafts and flooding of mining areas. Rock falls are also a common source of danger causing two to three deaths in a year. However, in April 2010 an explosion at one of Massey’s Energy plant resulted in the deaths of 29 miners. Statistically, the accident was the most fatal in over thirty years since the Kentucky disaster.
According to subsequent investigations, Massey failed to meet the necessary statutory safety standards. Critical amongst the corporate failures was the lack of adequate ventilation that led to the accumulation of explosive methane gas to ignition levels. Additionally, the facility lacked basic fire-fighting equipment that could be used to douse the flames. It was claimed that the company ignored safety standards to increase its profit margins.
After the accident, the mine was bought by Alpha Natural Resources who embarked on a series of activities aimed at preventing future accidents. Members of staff were required to undergo a retraining exercise to prepare them to handle any future incidents effectively. In addition, the mining equipment was rotationally serviced to ensure they were in good working conditions. Faulty equipment, like the limestone dust sprayer whose malfunction had contributed to the explosion, were replaced while the carbon monitors were enhanced. Safety maintenance checks were also routinely carried out.
While mining accidents continue to occur in America, technological innovations, and adequate preventive measures have served to reduce their fatalities. Globally, mining continues to be a fatal industry with the number of reported mining disasters high. Comparatively, America suffers fewer accidents compared to the global average. With less than twenty deaths per year for a workforce of about half a million, America has a better safety record than countries like China, Russia and Ukraine that have a similar number of miners.
What is the ethics involved in mining?
Climate change phenomenal, pollution, safety of miners and vicarious liability of mining concerns are the major ethical issues facing the mining sector. While vicarious liability of companies for mining disaster was established by statute, there remains concerns on whether the law adequately protects miners from rogue employers. The degree, to which mining enterprises ought to be accountable, has been an area of significant debate as employees seek imposition of strict liability on companies for accidents.
Climate change and pollution are two interrelated ethical issues. While mining is a “robber” activity that strips the surface layers, the handling of mining waste is very problematic. The practice of using mercury in the processing of gold ores, the fumes and soot produced in coal are examples of the foul nature of the industry. The impact of pollution on climate change has led to debate on whether the gains from mining outweigh the resultant pollution.
History of government involvement in mining safety standards.
Federal participation in the regulation of safety standards in the mining operation dates back to 1891. Congress passed legislation that aimed at eliminating the hiring of 12-year-old teenagers in mines and set minimum aeration standards for sub-surface mines. Henceforth, the federal government has concentrated in setting minimum standards to be followed by miners to ensure safety. Due to the high number of fatalities between 1900 to 1910, the government established the Bureau of Mines to research on ways of reducing mining disasters. Subsequently the agency’s powers were increased to include inspection and penalizing of mining concerns that breached safety standards.
Subsequent statutes have only served to provide for more elaborate safety requirements, increase the penalty for breaching safety requirements and widen the scope of Bureau of Mines. In 1973, the Secretary of Interior launched the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration to oversee the implementation of health and safety standards. The Bureau of Mines scope was limited to research and development of knowledge regarding mineral resources.
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, 1977, was enacted to amend the Coal Act of 1969. Additionally, the statute merged the various laws governing safety and health standards for the various mining sectors. The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act was ratified in 2006 requiring mining companies to maintain standard disaster response procedures.
Should the liability for injury resulting from accidents rest with the employee instead of the employer?
In determining the party to bear responsibility public policy factors and culpability of the parties has to be addressed. Public policy usually dictates that liability ought to rest with the party that can reasonably bear the cost of suit. As such, between employers and employee one has to consider who can bear any cost that arise from an accident. Such policy consideration is based on the premise that any party, that suffers damage, ought to be compensated. Therefore, employers are usually held responsible for any damages that may be awarded for they have the financial capability to bear the cost. Additionally, the employer is in a unique position of passing the cost of suit to customers as part of the selling price.
The law also requires that the party responsible for harm to others ought to be punished to act as deterrence and prevent reoccurrence. Typically, mining accidents are rarely within the control of an employee except, maybe, for the supervisor. The employer is responsible for providing a reasonable safe working conditions and putting in place measures to prevent accidents. Furthermore, the employer can regulate employees activities to ensure safety standards are met. The duty of care, to ensure safe working condition for the employee, is then passed to supervisors and foremen who ensure adherence to company’s policy.
Therefore, the employer ought to continue being liable for any accidents that occur for he is capable of meeting the financial cost. The employer is also capable of minimizing risk of accidents. However, supervisors ought to be liable for criminal negligence where accidents arises as a result of failure to implement corporate safety standards.
Gunningham, N. (2007). Mine Safety: Law Regulation Policy. New York: Federation press.
Huber, T. (2011, May 26). U.S. Coal Mine Deaths: 2010 Deadliest Year Since 1992. The Huffington Post, pp. 14-15. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/us-coal-mine-deaths-in-20_n_802790.html?ir=India
Kicki, J., & Sobczyk, J. (2004). International Mining Forum 2004, New Technologies in Underground Mining, Safety in Mines: Proceedings of the Fifth International Mining Forum. Paris: CRC press.
Mine Safety and Health Administration. (2011, June 12). MSHA News Release: Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor: http://www.msha.gov/MEDIA/PRESS/2011/NR111206.asp
Mine Safety and Health Administration. (2014, December 1). Historical Data on Mine Disasters in the United States:Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor Web site: http://www.msha.gov/MSHAINFO/FactSheets/MSHAFCT8.HTM
Mine Safety and Health Administration. (2014, December 1). History of Mine Safety and Health Legislation: Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from Mine Safety and Health Administration. United States Department of Labor: http://www.msha.gov/MSHAINFO/MSHAINF2.HTM
SourceWatch. (2011). Coal Mining Disasters. Coal Issue, 12-14. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Coal_mining_disasters#United_States