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29 coal miners trapped in New Zealand mine

With our 24/7 news cycle, always moving on to the next adrenalin fix news story, how easy it is for horrific and arguably, avoidable events to fade from the public consciousness.

On April 5, 2010, only a little over 6 months ago, the headlines in the United States were about the tragedy which had befallen 29 miners in an underground coal mine in West Virginia run by Don Blankenship's, Massey Coal.
Upper Big Branch Mine disaster

29 lives were lost.

Just today in China, 29 coal miners trapped underground by a flood, were rescued.
All 29 trapped Chinese miners rescued
These miners were the fortunate ones (this time around), as almost 100 times this number die each year in Chinese coal mines.

And right now, in New Zealand, the families of 29 coal miners are waiting for word on their loved ones who have been trapped in a coal mine since last Friday.

Town in shock as hopes for trapped miners surge
29 people trapped in the Pike River coalmine after a gas explosion on Friday.
The men have been missing since Friday afternoon but rescuers are yet to enter the mine because of fears about toxic gases, fires and further explosions.

Mine explosion over `a thousand degrees`
"The peak temperature of the explosion would be of the order of 1500 Kelvin (1227 degrees Celsius)."

The Upper Big Branch Coal mine took the lives of 29 miners.
Upper Big Branch Coal Mine - names of the miners

President delivered a moving eulogy for these lost lives.

One of the most frustrating things about this was the company's record pointed to a culture of needless recklessness when it came to safety.

West Virginia mine has been cited for myriad safety violations
Three miners have died there since 1998, and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Upper Big Branch for 1,342 safety violations from 2005 through Monday, proposing $1.89 million in fines, according to federal records.

Right now in New Zealand 29 families are waiting for word on 29 coal miners.
Conrad Adams, 43 (Greymouth)
Malcolm Campbell, 25 (Greymouth - Scottish)
Glen Cruse, 35 (Cobden)
Allan Dixon, 59 (Rununga)
Zen Drew, 21 (Greymouth)
Christopher Duggan, 31 (Greymouth)
Joseph Dunbar, 17 (Greymouth)
John Hale, 45 (Ruatapu)
Daniel Herk, 36 (Rununga)
David Hoggart, 33 (Foxton)
Richard Holling, 41 (Blackball)
Andrew Hurren, 32 (Greymouth)
Jacobus 'Koos' Jonker, 47 (Coben - South African),
William Joynson, 49 (Dunollie - Australian)
Riki Keane, 28 (Greymouth)
Terry Kitchin, 41 (Runanga)
Samuel Mackie, 26 (Greymouth)
Francis Marden, 42 (Runanga)
Michael Monk, 23 (Greymouth)
Stuart Mudge, 31 (Rununga)
Kane Nieper, 33 (Greymouth)
Peter O'Neill, 55 (Rununga)
Milton Osborne, 54 (Ngahere)
Brendan Palmer, 27 (Cobden)
Benjamin Rockhouse, 21 (Greymouth)
Peter Rodger, 40 (Greymouth - British)
Blair Sims, 28 (Greymouth)
Joshua Ufer 25 (Australia)
Keith Valli, 62 (Winton)

And once again there is early indication that the company has placed these miners in harms way without enforcing, implementing the necessary safety precautions. Unbelievable after what only six months ago occurred in the United States.

Pike River coalmine 'lacked standard safety gear'
And it emerged the mine did not have any stores of food, water or specifically stationed spare air or oxygen generators - sharply limiting the miners' chances if it takes weeks to find them, as occurred in Chile's famous mine rescue last month.

The Queensland district president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Steve Smyth, said last night such emergency provisions were required in Australian coalmines.

"If they don't have those systems set up in this mine, it's just unbelievable," Mr Smyth, a mine safety expert, told The Australian.

It seems more and more frequently we are seeing the same pursuit of profit in the fossil fuel industry which leads to significant loss of property, of life being done almost knowingly recklessly.

If you go back to the Gulf Of Mexico disaster, I wrote at the time about an almost identical sequence of events which had occurred not 8 months before in Australia.
BP's Gulf Gusher, 'I've seen this movie before', 8 months ago

A 17 year old is in the New Zealand mine. The fossil fuel industry put him there by fighting tooth and nail to protect this industry from moving from a destructive and dangerous one, to a clean and renewable and SAFE one.

So I'll give you one more 29 to remember, 29th November is Cancun where the agreement which is being negotiated is one which is supposed to be about shifting us away from these industries which pollute the atmosphere, poison the water, destroy mountains, warm the globe and violently take the lives of young men. The world's leaders need to realize the urgency and recognize that it will be unforgivable to walk away from Cancun without an agreement on transitioning to cleaner forms of energy production and away from carbon intensive ones.
If for no other reason, transitioning our energy economy away from these industries should happen so it is no longer necessary to put 29 young (or older) people in harms way in underground coal mines.


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