USA Today Insists Mine
Safety Fines Arenít High Enough
The untold story, however, is the trend
toward increased safety and higher productivity in American mines.
By Ken Shepherd
Free Market Project
Feb. 10, 2006
U.S. coal mines have become safer over the past five years while
rapidly maintaining productivity and output, according to government
statistics. In fact, the U.S. coal industry is 136 million times
less fatal than the state-run Chinese mining industry, according to
a Free Market Project analysis. Yet USA Todayís Thomas Frank in his
two February 10 articles focused on government regulations in the
form of higher fines as the answer to safety.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Frank led off his
front-page article by comparing the $550,000 levied by the FCC
for Janet Jacksonís bare breast to the reduced fine of $3,000 for a
deadly 2001 Alabama mine accident. Frankís
second article on page 3A traced how ďmine-safety penalties have
changed little over the years.Ē
¬†¬†¬†¬† While the USA Today reporter did quote some defenders
of current regulations, Frank left out the fact that U.S. mines have
become less deadly every year since 2001, even as production hasnít
¬†¬†¬†¬† A Free Market Project review of
government data found, for example, that mining employment grew
from 2003 to 2004 by 4.1 percent while coal production jumped in the
same time by
3.8 percent. In the same time frame,
fatalities in U.S. mines decreased from 30 to 28. The following
year recorded a low of 22, a remarkable decline from a recent high
of 42 registered in 2000.
¬†¬†¬†¬† USA Todayís focus on small-dollar fines also ignored
the larger context of U.S. mining Ė for example, just how safe U.S.
mines are when compared to coal-producing rival China. That populous
communist nation has seen a rapid jump in production but has been
unable to significantly increase safety in its mines.
¬†¬†¬†¬† ďThe number of total fatalitiesĒ in Chinese mines in
2005 ďwas 5,986, nearly level with the 6,027 people killed in 2004,Ē
AP business writer
Elaine Kurtenbach reported in a February 10 article. ďCoal
output rose 7.9 percent in 2005 to 2.11 billion tons, the commission
reported, with average deaths per million tons at just over 2.7.Ē
¬†¬†¬†¬† At 22 deaths in 2005 in a year which produced 1,112
million tons of coal, the average death per million tons of U.S.
coal is 0.0000000198 deaths per million tons, or over 136.4 million
times safer for the average American coal miner than for his Chinese
¬†¬†¬†¬† The Free Market Project has previously documented how
the media were quick to blame the
mining industry for the recent Sago Mine tragedy and to call for
increased government regulation.