December 4, 2008

Memorial Service to Honor Robena Miners

A memorial service will be held Dec. 6 to honor the miners who died 46 years ago in an explosion at U.S. Steel Corp.'s Robena Mine. Local Union 1980 and UMWA District 2 are sponsoring the service to honor the 37 miners who died in one of Greene County's worst mining disasters. A buildup of methane gas exploded, killing 37 members of a continuous miner crew while they worked. "On that fateful day, their government failed them," said Edward D.Yankovich, international vice president of UMWA District 2 at the service in 2007. "It failed them because it did not adequately protect them. It failed because throughout all these tragedies there were no regulatory agencies." Many union officials cite the Robena disaster as one of the reasons behind the enactment of the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. Unfortunately, it took seven years and another major mine explosion, one that killed 78 miners in Farmington, W.Va., in 1968, before the law was signed. "The Farmington mine explosion was covered on television and the whole nation saw that," Yankovich said. "People in California and Oregon, where there is no coal mining, saw what happens to coal miners and understood the pain and suffering we in Appalachia have known for centuries," he said. Yankovich said the federal government decided to act, finally, by creating the Mine Safety and Health Administration. "But then in 1976, the Scotia Mine in Kentucky blew up and the government said maybe regulations need to be stronger," he said. "But disasters continued to happen, and coal miners still die every day, from black lung and direct injury," he said. He pointed to the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia and one at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. "It is up to us to change the future. It is up to us to bring this to light. It is up to us to elect an administration that sees our plight in a favorable way," he said.
On Saturday, December 6, the United Mine Workers of America will hold the memorial service at 11 a.m. at the Robena Monument on Route 21 in Monongahela Township, just west of Hatfield's Ferry Power Station. An account of this and other mine disasters in Greene County can be found here. Most of this was taken from a story by Jon Stevens of the Washington Pa. Observer-Reporter.

No comments: