24 July 2007

Safety

I was quizzed in the comments recently as to why I said the recent mine fatalities at Rock Creek would add fuel to the fire of controversy about the mine.

I don't think I was journalistically "salting the story" (though that may just be an unconscious reflex by this point) and yes, it is true, the controversy is primarily about procedural and environmental concerns.

But here's at least one connection: one concern about cyanide mining is that the mine operators could make a mistake and the cyanide could get free, no matter how well-designed the tailings facility is. Attention to detail and safety are crucial parts of this argument and, while the investigation into the accident is still on-going, I don't think it's a huge stretch to think that the accident will reveal something about the level of attention to detail and safety at the mine.

More than that, anything about the mine will gradually get worked into the conversation and change the argument and controversy over time. As I remember it, this controversy started over distaste about cyanide mining, which rapidly led to concern about wetlands-destruction and the permitting process. Who's to say the controversy won't take another tack?

As for the accident itself, there is little knew to report (I haven't exactly been in town keeping my ear glued to the ground, however) but rumour and innuendo. One question I'd like to see answered is what the criminal liability is for the mine operators and contractors. What does the law say?

2 comments:

Jim said...

"little knew to report"?

Hi Jesse - I suppose that is a point you could make - about mine safety. That has been a beef of mine with the argument our governors made about there being laws to protect us against pollution/disasters. Well, those laws don't prevent mistakes that in the end could cost us a world class grayling stream or, at worst, more lives.

mpb said...

This group has taken over from Confined Space, one of the few science blogs concerning occupational safety.
http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/2007/07/22/two-workers-dead-at-alaska-gold-mine/

The workplace health stats are horrible, and this in a country where there is something called OSHA.