Every now and then ,we come across a historical site that catches our interest, either because it highlights an industry, a telling event, or some other matter related to work, insurance, or the matters that we tend to discuss here at Workers Comp Insider. Mining's Legacy - a Scar on Kansas is just such a site. Hosted by the Lawrence Journal-World, the site uses text, video, photography and historical documents to tell the story of the mining industry in Cherokee and Crawford counties. The series chronicles the long-term impact that the industry has had on the landscape and the people of the area.
While the entire site is of interest, both for the historical and the contemporary significance, we found the worker stories to be quite compelling. "It was a bad way to make a living," says 81 year-old Walter Weinstein, who went to work in the mines at the age of 12. He narrates a slide show that gives a good idea of the working conditions in the mines. It's an interesting story, and one that will probably offer some perspective on any job annoyances you may have today.
A posting on discussion site Metafilter offers more colorful historical context around the industry, the era, and the geographic region.
The Department of Labor also has a fascinating historical mining exhibit on the Mine Safety and Administration Administration pages, encompassing topics such as the so-called breaker boys, children as young as 8 years old who worked the mines, "Eight Days in a Burning Mine", the harrowing story of a survivor of the Cherry mine disaster, and pages focusing on the history of Irish, Asian, and Afro-American mine workers.
Not the stuff of yesteryear
Unfortunately, unsafe conditions are not just a matter of historical record. While safety has improved, mining continues to be among the world's most dangerous professions, both here in the U.S., and in various points throughout the globe. Last year, U.S. coal mine deaths spiked to a 10-year high. Two weeks ago, we had our first U.S. miner death in 2007, and this week, at least 107 miners lost their lives in underground Siberian tunnels and in China, where at least 5,000 die in mining accidents each year, 15 workers perished in a flood and another 26 died in an unrelated explosion.