KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This weekend’s video is about the Westray Mine disaster, the May 9, 1992 explosion deep inside the Plymouth mine that killed 26 underground miners.
Today, April 28, is the Day of Mourning, the annual event that acknowledges workplace injuries, work-related illnesses and deaths.
We learn about Glenn Martin, one of these unfortunate miners, through the memories of his brother Allen. “He never had much, but he didn’t need much either. Friends – and he had many – family and fun, that was Glenn.”
I remember vividly listening to the radio when the news of the disaster broke and rescue operations got underway. It was heartbreaking.
Equally distressing was the news that started coming out about how the Westray explosion could have been prevented. The judge who led the inquiry called the entire affair”a story of incompetence, of mismanagement, of bureaucratic bungling, of deceit, of ruthlessness, of cover-up, of apathy, of expediency, and of cynical indifference.”
These people lost their lives because of shameful behaviour by politicians such as Donald Cameron, mine manager Gerald Phillips and faceless bureaucrats.
It seems these man-made disasters over time morph into just disasters of the shit happens variety, a spontaneous spot of bad luck, rather than an owner cutting corners to increase profit margins while politicians and bureaucrats look the other way.
You see it in the Westray story, and even more clearly in the changing narrative of the Ocean Ranger disaster off the coast of Newfoundland, or more recently the Deepwater Horizon spill in the US.
A while ago we talked with author Susan Dodds, who has written about this phenomenon.
“Time and again the public trusts governments to ensure that companies operate with reasonable prudence. Time and again we are shocked by a new disaster caused by corporate negligence. We say we will ‘never forget’. Then we forget. And then it happens again,” writes Dodd.
Hey, we’re opening a new mine in Cape Breton. The company that owns the mine has a history of union bashing and running unsafe operations in the States, two activities that typically go hand in hand.
“It’s very safe, very protective, and very mechanical,” local Liberal MLA and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Geoff MacLellan assured a CBC reporter about the Donkin mine. “I can vouch for that,” MacLellan added for emphasis.
Seems like nothing ever changes in Nova Scotia.
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