How Transparent can a Mine be?

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    As the world watched the amazing rescue of the Chilean miners, I was struck by the amazing level of transparency being demonstrated by the Chilean government. No one knew if the rescue was going to be successful. And yet, the world was watching the event unfold live, with cameras above and below ground. What a display of trust.

    Contrast this show of transparency with the tragic events that occurred in West Virginia earlier this year.

    Massey Energy chairman and CEO Don L. Blankenship repeatedly defended his company and its safety record. He was quoted as saying that, “any suspicion that the mine was improperly operated or illegally operated or anything like that would be unfounded.” As commented on at the time: “Rather than exercise the least amount of humility and allow such investigation to take its course, Blankenship has already gone into a defensive mode of denial and refusal to take responsibility. Even in the wake of terrible human tragedy, he will not budge from the arrogance of a stance in which he and Massey ‘can do no wrong.'”

    A headline in the Charlestown Gazette stated:

    Will transparency help Massey Energy and hinder the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster investigation?

    Ken Ward wrote that “It’s being argued that we in the media are “just silly” to be demanding that federal and state investigators open their probe of the disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch to the press and the public.”

    While the Chilean government is just beginning its probe into the safety lapses at the San Jose mine, we can hope that the level of transparency shown at the rescue will be carried forward into the investigation.