Last Wednesday, June 20, I learned from a newspaper reporter that a gold miner was missing at the Newmont company’s Midas mine near Winnemucca, Nevada. I checked MSHA’s website, but nothing was posted about the accident. No problem, I’ll cut them some slack. Maybe within 24 hours they’d provide some details.
By Friday, there was still no news offered by MSHA, so I began to rely on the Newmont company’s website and updates posted on the local Las Vegas TV stations (KVBC and KLAS). (The TV stations’ stories provided no more information than that contained in the company’s news release.) From these sources I learned that evidence of “ground subsidence” (like a sink hole) was observed on Tuesday, June 19 and this is the area where rescue teams were searching for the lost miner. The company also reported that all of the other gold miners who were underground on Tuesday were evacuated safely.
Now it’s Monday, June 25, six days after the gold miner went missing. There’s still no information on MSHA’s website, but I learn from the latest Newmont press update that the trapped miner is Mr. Dan Shaw, 30, and teams from the Carlin and Twin Creek mines are leading the search.
So, why am I annoyed that I’m forced to rely on the company’s news releases to find out the status of the missing miner? Why does it bother me so much that MSHA doesn’t have any information about this accident on its website? Let’s face it, workers die everyday in the our country and people don’t go to OSHA’s website and expect to see information about these accidents. (In fact, I’ve never been able to find any information on OSHA’s website about current accident investigations.) Why do I expect more of MSHA?
This takes me back to early January 2006, watching cable news or checking the web to hear updates on the trapped Sago miners. The only people providing updates were officials from the mining company, and I wondered “where was MSHA?” I knew they had to be on-the-scence, but was puzzled that they weren’t offering their own updates. In the months following Sago, I talked with family members and reporters who all agreed that the agency should not contract-out its public information functions to the mining companies. If there’s a reason that MSHA isn’t providing information about this trapped Newmont gold miner (e.g., the family of the missing miner requested that no information be released until the miner is found), then the agency could simply post such a notice on its website.
When it comes to ongoing rescue operations and accident investigations, I do expect more from MSHA. I want to believe that at MSHA, fatalities involving miners are not just statistics—each one counts—each one is a worker with a family, friends and co-workers left behind. MSHA, unlike OSHA, posts information promptly about each fatal accident. At MSHA, I want to believe that each fatality still matters. That’s one of the many things that makes MSHA different from OSHA.
On this blog, MSHA gets the bulk of my criticism because it’s an agency that still matters. It’s relevant, and it still makes a difference in miners’ lives. No doubt it can do more, and when challenged over the last year, it has done more. Like me, some of MSHA’s harshest critics do so because we know there is tremendous talent, dedication and potential in the agency staff. I wonder if former critics of OSHA have simply given up. Why waste your breath when the agency is nearly irrelevant.
I reserve my blog time to criticize MSHA because it is still relevant.