First, the actual accident. Without a doubt, terribly tragic, especially given recent evidence that lightning may have caused the explosion that trapped the miners, but it does highlight a need for an overhaul of safety protocol, and a rethinking of the methods used, particularly in dissemination of information during one of these disasters.
Second, the backlash from the public on hearing that the miners didn't survive. This one needs to be broken down into two sections.
- First, the jump to blame the media. While I'm not one to jump in front of a train for the media, they're not actually, technically to blame for this. The mixup, as I'm sure most of you have heard by this point, was a result of the mining company's attempts to stop something like this from happening, using code to avoid ever mentioning the words "alive", "dead" or "miner", lest it get to the media and the exact thing that happened occur. In a questionably callous move, they used "item" to refer to the miners, but whatever. They're more at fault for realizing that a mixup had occurred and that the families and media were given incorrect information, and not doing anything at all to stop it. They've apologized (claiming that they "alllowed the jubilation to continue for too long", which, considering the situation by any reasonable person, would be a very short time considering that only one survived), but it's nigh inexcusable to allow such sensitive information to continue. Perhaps this whole mixup, if anything, says something about the limitations of "breaking news" and fact-checking, but it appears that the mining company continued the "they're alive" statement over the three hours while they were checking, rather than saying, perhaps, "No, we have no information one way or the other, and have no evidence to support the belief that 12 are alive".
- I've seen several calling for all of those in the mining industry to get out, citing the danger of the occupation, on several messageboards. Such a proposition is almost too dumb to mention, except for the fact that this is my blog and the phrase "too dumb for Murphspot" doesn't exist with any real meaning. It's dumb not because it advocates taking precaution when entering in to such a job (which isn't at all dumb) but that it, in a comment on our society and modern convenience, presumes that things would continue as normal if everyone followed that advice. Mining, dirty job that it is, is still essential, and it's because of people like the miners in the Sago mine, the miners in Quecreek, miners like my grandfather that modern life is possible in the way we experience it. If mines could become obsolete and humans were no longer needed, then that's sound advice. But while we're still reliant on fossil fuels for energy, we need miners.
I don't know. Perhaps while Randal McCloy, Jr. is in Pittsburgh in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber trying to recover, it might be a good time to reflect on such behind the scenes players as miners, without whom the rest of us couldn't sit around with fancy things like electricity and whatnot.
I'm going to go read now.