Crandall Canyon Mine Had Very Good Safety Record

Published November 1, 2007

In the wake of the August 6 coal mine collapse that killed six miners (and later, three rescuers) at Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, the news media were filled with sensational allegations of a poorly run mine with an even worse safety record. An objective review of the Crandall Canyon Mine, however, reveals a good safety record, despite media assertions to the contrary.

Media Distorts Record

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, television news and the print media gave a public podium to union officials and anti-mining advocates who claimed the mine had been run in a strikingly unsafe manner.

The September 5 Salt Lake City Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune devoted full articles to assertions by the president of the United Mine Workers Union that the federal government had willingly allowed an unsafe mine to continue operations. An October 3 article on CNN’s Web site trumpeted California Democratic Rep. George Miller’s assertion that the collapse was “a preventable tragedy” even though Miller had no special knowledge of the facts of the case.

The August 23 Huffington Post reported that CNN’s The Situation Room “looked into Murray’s [various] mining operations … and found some shocking statistics: Of Murray’s 19 mines, 7 were underground and 4 of them had accident rates above the national average.”

Such reporting completely distorted the facts.

“The assertion that four of Murray Energy’s mines had above-average accident rates and three of Murray Energy’s mines had below-average accident rates is hardly shocking. It seems to reflect a statistically average safety record,” observed Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute.

Strong Safety Record

A look at the Crandall Canyon Mine itself showed an even better safety record.

According to an August 9 Associated Press story, “At Utah’s Crandall Canyon mine, where the fate of the miners was unknown after a cave-in Monday, the safety record was remarkably good, said R. Larry Grayson, a professor of mining engineering at Penn State University.”

“The injury rate for the last four years has been significantly below the national average,” Grayson told the Associated Press.

An innovative fire prevention program launched by Murray Energy in 2001 also undercut assertions that Murray Energy is callous to miner safety. The program was a first-of-its-kind prevention effort that included a $100,000 mobile training vehicle and extra fire safety equipment at Murray Energy mines.

“In my experience Mr. Murray has been in the forefront of efforts to improve mine safety legislation,” Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, told the August 9 Associated Press. “He’s certainly been visible in our association-wide efforts to improve mine safety at underground coal mines.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a Heartland Institute senior fellow and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.