An Enduring Memorial for Slaughtered Miners: Criminal Liability for Reckless Owners
Leo W. Gerard
President, United Steelworkers International
The catastrophe at Upper Big Branch that killed 29 miners evokes the disaster at Westray that killed 26 almost exactly 18 years earlier.
As at Upper Big Branch, a coal dust and methane explosion ripped through the Westray mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia early in the morning. As at Upper Big Branch, rescuers discovered bodies, but toxic air forced them out before they could account for all missing miners. After five days, dangerous conditions permanently ended the search for the missing 11 at Westray. They’re entombed in the hazardous workplace that took their
lives, a mine like Upper Big Branch that had been cited for dust and methane violations.
Nova Scotia erected a memorial over the spot where the bodies of the 11 are believed to be, with plaques bearing the names of the miners killed. West Virginia no doubt will commemorate those killed at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch.