Reader comment on: Siding With Salamanders
Submitted by Fred Unkster (United States), Aug 22, 2010 16:49
Coal seams mined with surface (or mountaintop or mountaintop removal) mining are nearly impossible to mine via underground mining. They are either too close to the surface, too thin, or located in too unstable of a material to access via tunnel.
When asked to switch to underground mines to reduce pollution from surface mining, coal industry officials make the same argument.
The two types of coal mining aren't fungible in a 1-to-1 way. One could argue that a ban on surface mining would send coal workers into other underground mines elsewhere, but I can imagine very few sites at which a ban on surface mining would move the project underground. Most surface mining sites are either mined via surface mining or not at all.
So while there is a tradeoff between the economic well-being of coal miners employed at surface mining projects and the environmental health of the sites on and surrounding those projects, there is not a "per-project" trade-off between environmental consequences and miner safety.
It should also be mentioned that while surface mines do not have collapses and underground methane explosions, they still rank among the nation's most dangerous workplaces. I'm not drawing any conclusions from that fact, I just think it's important to remember that surface mines die in accidents as well.
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