Once again, coal mining families have convened in an anguished vigil, waiting to determine the fate of men trapped beneath the earth.
Coal mining is a dangerous occupation, and no one knows that better than the people who do it. But officials think the massive explosion that killed at least 25 men inside the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia this week may have been prevented by better adherence to safety procedures.
"All explosions are preventable," Mine Safety and Health Administration official Kevin Stricklin told reporters. "It's just making sure you have things in place to keep one from occurring."
The mine's owner, Massey Energy Co., has been fined repeatedly for safety violations at its mines, including some that cost the lives of two workers in a 2006 fire. The Upper Big Branch mine was cited for 458 violations in 2009, including conditions, such as poor ventilation of dust and methane, that could lead to an explosion.
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