On Wednesday evening roof bolter Asa Fitzpatrick of Kermit died from injuries received at Newtown Energy's Peerless Rachel Mine at Racine in Boone County. Coal mining ranks as one of America’s top ten most dangerous jobs; and the 63-year old Fitzpatrick who had 40 years of mining experience is one the many miners to show extreme bravery in an industry under constant scrutiny.
Sadly, the incident comes weeks after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a mine safety ‘Stand Down’ to review safety procedures. Between 2001-2013 the Mine Safety and Health Administration Injury Trends Fact Sheet reports that around 50-60 miners are killed in the United States each year and West Virginia is on pace to top the national average by itself.
Although federal laws in place are the strongest they’ve ever been in the industry-- with nearly $1 billion on emergency preparations spent, its pretty difficult to place so many new regulations on veteran miner’s that’s been doing one job their whole lives.
Some will argue that it’s time West Virginia looks toward new alternative fuel and energy sources. But 90 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal. It will take decades to implement a new ‘primary’ source of energy in West Virginia if the state ever decides to wean away from coal. And many feel that regulators will not channel more funds towards safety in the state if death rates continue to rise.
Sources: WOWK; MSHA