The Federal takes you through five books that tell the tales of tragedy at extraction sites across the globe

There has been a great number of accidents in mines due to hazardous working conditions at extraction sites. India’s mining industry has a very poor health and safety record, with illegal mining — of coal and sand (as evident in Uttarakhand) — posing a grave threat. The Federal takes you through five books that tell the tales of mining disasters across the globe:

1. Buried Alive: The True Story of the Chilean Mining Disaster and the Extraordinary Rescue at Camp Hope by Manuel Pino Toro (2011): On August 5, 2010, a tunnel in the gold and copper mine in the Atacama Desert in Chile collapsed, with all of its miners trapped underground. For days, the families waited as rescue workers searched out signs of life. Finally, a note came back from below — the miners were alive and safe. Now the rescue crew needed to burrow through 2,300 feet of solid rock to get them out. For nine weeks, the world watched as Chile threw all of its resources into the effort. Televisions flashed images of worried families holding vigil night and day and of Chile’s newly elected President Miguel Juan Sebastián Piñera making their recovery his personal crusade. Buried Alive reveals the behind-the-scenes intrigue: the corruption that caused faulty construction of the tunnel; how the men lived in a humid environment where the temperature was unbearably hot; how the rescue effort became a political campaign to raise the president’s sagging numbers; and the hope necessary to sustain the men in their underground captivity. Pino Toto, a Chile native, draws on direct access to the miners and their families, weaving a rich narrative of extraordinary survival and triumph.

2. Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 by Michael Punke (2016): In the worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history, which took place half hour before midnight on June 8, 1917, fire broke out in the North Butte Mining Company’s Granite Mountain shaft. Sparked more than 2,000 feet below ground, the fire spewed flames, smoke, and poisonous gas through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Within an hour, more than four hundred men would be locked in a battle to survive. Within three days, 164 of them would be dead. Fire and Brimstone recounts the stories of both the men below ground and their families above, focusing on two groups of miners who made the incredible decision to entomb themselves to escape the gas. It also tells a far broader story: how the mine fire would ignite strikes, murder, ethnic and political witch hunts, occupation by federal troops, and ultimately a battle over presidential power.

3. Black Mountain Elegy: The Reminisces of a Scotia Coal Miner by Eddie Nickels (2021): Big Black Mountain is a ridge of the Cumberland Mountains and is the highest mountain peak in Kentucky, towering 4,145 feet in elevation. Scotia Coal Company operated four coal mine openings inside and beneath Black Mountain, one of which experienced two devastating methane gas explosions on March 9 and 11, 1976, killing 26 miners. The author, a retired Scotia coal miner, describes his experiences of helping to recover the bodies of 11 of the miners who were killed in the second explosion. The 11 miners were sealed inside the mine for over eight months before they were successfully recovered. He also recounts his participation in helping to clean up and ventilate the shattered Scotia #1 mine where the two explosions had ripped through the mine.

4. Blood on the Coal: The True Story of the Great Springhill Mine Disaster by Ken Cuthbertson (2023): Based on historical documents and interviews with the last of the surviving miners and their loved ones, this is gripping story of one of Canada’s worst mining disasters, told in the voices of the men who survived it. In October 1958, the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation’s No. 2 colliery at Springhill, Nova Scotia, was the proverbial “disaster waiting to happen.” And it did. Springhill was the quintessential one-industry town, whose existence depended on coal, a commodity with a dying market. And yet something far worse was soon to come. On the night of October 23, 1958, a small earthquake shook the ground beneath the town. Seventy-five miners died and scores more were injured in what remains one of Canada’s worst underground disasters.

5. Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and Its Twin Mining Disasters by Nick Pappas (2023): In October 1913, 261 miners and two rescuers died when a massive explosion ripped through a mine operated by Phelps, Dodge & Company in Dawson, New Mexico. Ten years later, a second blast claimed the lives of another 120 miners. Today, Dawson is a deserted ghost town. All that remains is a sea of white iron crosses memorializing the nearly four hundred miners killed in the two explosions — a death toll unmatched by mine disasters in any other town in America. In October this year, to mark the centennial of the second disaster, veteran journalist Nick Pappas tells the tragic story of what was once New Mexico’s largest and most modern company town and of how the strong, determined residents of the community coped with two heartbreaking catastrophes.

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