Letter to the Editor: Nature of the beast
I am an employee of Mr. Murray who was employed at the Tower mine outside of Price. I'm a third generation coal miner. I started my mining career in 1974 working for U.S. Fuel in Hiawatha where I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with my dad for several years before he retired with a UMWA pension. I have mine foreman papers in three states (Utah, Colorado and New Mexico). I have been in the coal industry for over 30 years.
Of the three mines that Mr. Murray now owns in Utah I have personally spent some time in each and every one. Tower mine is the one I was working for on Aug. 26, 2007 when I was told that many of us would be laid off for an undetermined amount of time, while studies were to be made to insure our safety. I have mixed emotions about this layoff, having just moved back to Utah after being a foreman for Oxbow Mining for several years and a fireboss for West Elk Mining both in Somerset, Colo. I have only been back in Price for a few months. So my family was just getting settled back in.
Then came Aug. 6 and the news of our trapped miners at Crandall Canyon. I prayed everyone would be okay but that was not to be. Then I thought back to when I was running a crew of contract miners and wishing for a chance to be put on full time because I felt this was a good mine to work at, great working conditions and a group of good miners working around and with your at this mine site. Then came the night of Aug. 16, 2007 when the mine bounce occurred killing three miners and injuring six others. One of them was my cousin, another very experienced miner whom I think highly of. Thank God he was able to leave the hospital with cuts and bruises. Emotionally he is having a lot of trouble. As all events are unfolding around us, we all turn on the television to find out all we can about what is transpiring. One of the things I've noticed is that in my personal opinion the media, as well as some of the elected officials are using this disaster to bring attention to themselves and their own agenda. I have come to expect it from the media even before I went to the employment office around 10 a.m. on Aug. 27, 2007 to find Channel 5 news setting up a camera and asking if there was any laid off miners present. If they were, they were as silent as I was.
Then there is our governor wanting all three of Mr. Murray mines investigated. Why not have all mining operations in Carbon and Emery counties investigated. He stated "if it takes every penny this guy has," he wants to bring closure to this tragedy.
Why not point a couple of fingers at MSHA who approved this mining plan. As one of many of Mr. Murray's fireboss and face bosses who perform preshift inspections at Tower I have always found the work area to be reasonably safe at the time of the exams or the area would be written up or "danger off" and made safe before work would continue in that area. These are done three hours before a shift change (every eight hours). All underground coal mines are inspected quarterly as well as having spot inspections whenever the federal inspectors want to do them.
When dealing with conditions of nature they can change at any time. That is the nature of the beast. All you can do is play the cards you're dealt and make things as safe as possible. I honestly feel Mr. Murray has done everything possible to retrieve the lost miners at Crandall Canyon and should be commended for his efforts. How many mine owners have you seen stay on site day after day and give his all until the end.
Even our governor along with the media faded into the sunset with the dimming of the spotlight.