Coal is the largest source of electricity across the world, mainly because it is abundant and cheap. But a string of coal mining accidents this week has served as a stark reminder that coal also remains the world’s most deadly source of energy.
In West Virginia, two miners were killed on May 12 while performing a particularly dangerous form of coal mining known as “retreat mining.” The miners were removing pillars of coal that hold up the roof of a mine, which causes a burst of coal to shoot down from the roof or wall, which is then extracted. This time, the operation didn’t work as planned and the two men were trapped and killed.
The following day, at least 238 miners in Turkey were trapped underground and killed following an explosion and fire at a power distribution unit. The death toll is expected to climb.
The dangers of coal mining are well known, and so are the risks that many coal companies take with their workers. Last year, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) found a pattern of violations at the West Virginia mine where the two workers died this week, Brody Mine No 1. The MSHA documented 253 significant and substantial safety violations. The mine’s owner, Patriot Coal, objected to the “pattern of violations” (POV) designation, which triggers tighter federal scrutiny, and pledged to “vigorously contest the POV finding.”