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Mike Simon
Mike Simon
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UMW Says Roof Friction Caused Sago Disaster

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Over a year has passed since the Sago mine explosion killed twelve miners. International Coal Group, the owner of the Sago mine, as well as state investigators have concluded that the explosion was caused by a lightning strike, which ignited methane gas in the mine.

The United Mine Workers, however, has put forth a different theory. The union argues that it was not a lightning strike that sparked the methane, but friction between the roof of the mine and the metal support system used to hold the roof in place, citing the lack of a metal conduit at Sago that could have carried the charge that far. In its report the UMW also blamed the explosion on the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for poor decisions in the period leading up to the explosion. The union accuses the Mine Safety and Health Administration of putting coal company profits ahead of worker safety.

Sago is a nonunion operation, and ICG issued a statement in response to the UMW report calling the conclusion unreliable and accusing the union of using the disaster as a means to promote union organizing.