FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Harlan County, Turkey

“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

 

 

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail