FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Harlan County, Turkey

by

“Don’t go down in the mine, Dad,

Dreams very often come true;

Daddy, you know it would break my heart

If anything happened to you…

“Don’t Go Down the Mine, Dad”, in honor of a South Wales mining disaster

Men and some women die for our air conditioning and central heating.  Yesterday’s  mine explosion in Soma, western Turkey, probably due to safety cost cutting, killed upwards of 300 men and probably many more.   Underground you die from being burned alive, suffocated or poisoned by fumes.  Four years ago 29 men died in West Virginia when the Upper Big Branch of Massey Energy’s mine blew up due to criminally lax safety violations.

The Turkish  association of electrical engineers said the disaster represented “murder, not an accident”. It accused the mine operators of neglect and using obsolete equipment. Inadequate ventilation systems meant carbon monoxide and other toxic gases could spread more quickly, it said.  Shades of Big Branch.

In mining, especially underground but also the pollution-crazy “open cast” (mainly in western states), deaths and injuries are routinely and unemotionally factored into a company’s balance sheet.  So much for litigation, so much for insurance.  Rarely do executives get indicted for malfeasance and no one who caused the deaths ever goes to jail.

We get nearly 40% of our energy from mainly bituminous (soft) coal from 52 mines in 25 states.  It’s a diminishing resource, which is one reason why coal companies savagely tear off the tops of ancient mountains, and dump the poisoned slurry in creeks and rivers, to extract the very last ounce of miners’ blood.  “Miners’ blood” is not hyperbole since mine owners – almost everywhere in the world, from China to Poland to India to USA – are historically among the coldest-hearted employers indifferent to human pain.  Which is one reason why coal miners, who do the actual digging in pretty terrible conditions especially underground, tend to be militant and class-and-union conscious.

Have we forgotten the 1921 Battle of Blair mountain when 10,000 armed and angry Logan county. West Virginia miners, seeking union recognition, fought an all-out war against private cops and federalized soldiers?  That’s when Harding sent in army bombers against the miners.

Almost every day I read about mine “accidents” in other parts of the world that kills workers who I feel are my brothers because I’ve been underground and have seen the raw energy and almost surgeon-like skill it takes to be a miner.  That’s another reason why coal owners hate miners – their sense of solidarity.  At the height of the Cold War, between Russia and the west, on a brink of nuclear Armageddon, I was visiting Don Bas miners from some of the deepest and most hazardous pits from presently disputed Ukraine, hug, kiss and trade sweaters with Yorkshire coal diggers who got drunk and sang songs with them, all in the same family.

From my prejudiced point of view, coal miners – yes, the producers of so much carbon dioxide emissions – are the natural aristocrats among us.  Romantic?  Maybe.  But I’ve spent days “doon pit” and it’s a lousy, dirty, stifling job.

Coal has been dug, by women and children too, lowered in buckets in shallow holes in the ground, since the Bronze Age and industrially since Roman times.

Statistics say one day coal will end as a fossil fuel.   Coal miners will fight literally to the death to save their deadly jobs.

Even when they’re most politically and religiously conservative, miners inherently tend to be fighters and even revolutionists.  (See “The Molly Maguires”, “Harlan County USA” and anything about the Asturian dinimteros).   Which is why employers and governments have an inherent tendency, like the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, to need to squash them.

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail