Don Blankenship: An American Tragedy

posted by Rainforest Action Network

This past week the eyes of the world have been focused on the tragic events at Big Branch mine in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, where 29 underground coal miners lost their lives in the most serious US mine disaster in 40 years. Our hearts go out to the community as they cope with such adversity.

Illustration by Ian Murphy

In the search for answers, much attention is focusing on the mining company that owns Big Branch, Massey Energy and Massey’s outspoken CEO, Don Blankenship.

Yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also served at the helm of the United Mine Workers of America for 13 years, commented: “Those miners died because Massey Energy cares more about a lump of coal than human lives”.
Mr. Blankenship has made no secret of his contempt for both environmental and safety regulations, blaming them each for interfering with his company’s ability to mine coal as cheaply as possible.

Photo via WV Gazette

When I think of Don, the first image that comes to my mind is of his bold posturing last year on Labor Day. Dressed in a ‘stars and stripes’ shirt, while posing in front of the US flag, he mocked local elected officials who attempt to ensure miner safety, calling their efforts “as silly as global warming”.

He has eagerly positioned himself as the ‘spokesperson’ for the mountaintop removal mining industry and consistently works to block a future that all Appalachian’s can benefit from: development of renewable energy and preservation of mountain heritage.

From his twitter feed:

“America doesn’t need Green jobs — but Red, White, & Blue ones.”

How cruelly ironic that Don Blankenship invokes the imagery of American patriotism, while setting the scene for two of the greatest American tragedies: the tragedy of disregarding his workers’ safety and the tragedy of mountaintop removal mining.