Grim Reality: Where To Go To Survive A Mine Disaster

One of the less edifying outcomes from the rescue of the Chilean miners has been the cry from left-liberals that, A-HA!, the rescue "proves" that we need Big Government because only BG could have saved the miners. This not only ignores the efforts of private enterprise, which developed the technology that extracted the miners, (and operated the machinery), but also harsh reality in the mining industry of one the biggest of Big Government nations:

Rescue workers were struggling Sunday to reach 11 coal miners missing underground after an accident that has triggered anguished comments on the Internet comparing China's woeful mine-safety record with the concern for human life displayed by the rescue of 33 miners in Chile.

The state-controlled Xinhua news agency said 26 miners were killed Saturday in an avalanche of coal dust triggered by a gas explosion at a mine in central Henan province.

It was the second deadly accident at the pit, owned by a consortium of companies including state-run China Power Investment, Corp.

And, China's "life is cheap" approach to mining has spread to the nations where China has been buying up natural resources and apparently treating the locals as well as they treat their fellow Chinese:

Zambian locals rioted and blocked a road leading to Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine Ltd. on Saturday to protest the shooting of at least 11 miners, allegedly by Chinese supervisors during a protest over low wages, police officials said Sunday.

On Friday, miners at Collum Coal Mine, in the Sinazongwe District of southern Zambia, demonstrated against low pay and poor working conditions. Gunshots followed, allegedly fired by two Chinese supervisors, wounding 11 miners, two of them critically, according to Zambian police and government officials. They were taken to a hospital.

Zambian police arrested the two Chinese supervisors allegedly involved.

(as an aside, can we agree that European colonialists were not unique in their depredations in Africa?)

The boring truth is not that government was the only thing standing between the miners and a Darwinian struggle for survival - never mind that the miners were discovered living peacefully together 17 days after becoming trapped (everyone seems to have forgotten this) - but that government and private industry had to work together the save the miners. And, the main role of government, acting through Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, was to provide cash and "cut through red tape;" in other words, to get out of the way.

More important, what saved the miners was a social ethic which said, we will do what it takes to save these men. I think we can assume that the same ethic would prevail in an American mining disaster, even if the Interior Secretary might brag about having his boot on the neck of the mining company. But, the drive to protect the lives and safety of men doing the hard work to keep an economy going is not a universal one.

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