It’s easy to think of mining as a profession of the past, but the reality is that there are thousands of men and women still working as miners. This work is particularly dangerous – the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that miners are almost six times more likely to suffer a serious injury than other professions. However, many are still attracted to the idea of mining because it can be a very lucrative business.
Commonly Mined Materials
There are two types of materials that are the most commonly mined for:
- Coal: this combustible rock is frequently used to generate electricity.
- Metallic Minerals: Gold, silver, copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, and more are used in jewelry, wiring, pipes, and various electronics.
Once a deposit of any of these materials has been discovered, an estimate of the amount of extractable material will be created. If the company suspects there is a profit to be made, then a mine will be established.
The very creation of a mine is risky business. Miners drill holes and use explosives in order to create the shafts and tunnels which will be used to extract the ore.
The United States Department of Labor has created the Mine Safety and Health Administration. This administration is designed to create rules and regulations which will protect miners throughout the country.
Mining Safety Regulations
The MSHA enforces the following safety regulations:
- the mandatory creation of proper vents and the use of machinery to create proper ventilation
- the use of gas monitors in all tunnels and shafts
- the strength requirements and structure of roof and tunnel supports
- training on explosives
- training on mining equipment
- necessary inspections of equipment use by miners
Despite a large number of regulations that mining companies should follow, the fact is that every day, owners, managers, and supervisors make the decision to ignore them for the sake of saving time and money, resulting in injury to their employees.
Common Mining Accidents
Every day that a miner spends working underground is a day in which something could go wrong and an accident could occur. Mine accidents typically involve:
Rock Falls / Cave-Ins
If the supports holding the walls and ceiling of the tunnel or shaft aren’t properly erected or maintained it is possible that the rock and dirt encapsulating the miners may give way and collapse. If the miner is not actually crushed by the thousands of pounds of material coming down on them, there is always the risk that the collapse will prevent them from escaping.
Even if the miner isn’t injured by the actual collapse, they can be killed by poisonous gases or starvation and dehydration if rescuers are unable to reach them.
If the explosives used to create shafts and tunnels are not handled or used properly, it is easy to create a massive explosion which can result in fires and tunnel collapse.
There are many large machines that are used every day in mining, and each one is capable of causing injury to workers if there is a defect or it isn’t used correctly.
Injuries Often Sustained
There are a number of injuries that miners frequently suffer from:
When explosions occur the miners in the area typically sustain burns. Burns can be extremely painful and leave severe scarring.
Any falling rock, tools, or machinery can cause damage not only to the skull but also to the soft brain within. Brain injuries can affect the victim’s cognitive abilities, memory, speech, and more. Doctors are often unable to determine how long it will take to recover or even if the victim will be able to fully recover.
The dust of the materials being mined or toxic gases can cause permanent damage to the lungs.
What Should Victims Do?
Anyone who has been injured in a mining accident has the right to learn more about their legal options. It is in your best interests to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. You should also:
- seek medical care immediately
- report the accident that caused you harm to a supervisor in writing
- gather the contact information of any witnesses to your accident
- keep copies of any reports or medical records that pertain to your accident and the resulting injuries
The loved ones of victims who have died in a mining accident also have the option to pursue legal action, in the form of a wrongful death claim. By doing so, they may be able to recover compensation for any medical expenses for treatments the victim received prior to their death, lost income, pain and suffering experienced by the victim, and emotional trauma.