Coal Miner, Coal Miner, shining your light. Working in a mine shaft dark as the night. What you gonna do before you go back in? Gonna ask the Lord to let me come out again. (from the song “West Virginia Coal Miner” by Roger White.)
If you enjoy Netflix as much as I do, you may have seen the film “Mine 9” while scrolling through the movie menu. “Mine 9” was originally released back in March of 2019, and was directed by Edie Mensore. It tells the story of nine Appalachian coal miners who end up stuck 2 miles underground after a methane explosion. In the movie, the mining company had knowledge of the methane issues, but refused to do anything about it. The mining company also had no mine rescue capabilities and no outside foreman. Prior to their last descent into the mine, the section leader calls the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Unfortunately, MSHA tells him there is nothing they can do until Monday morning, which turns out to be too late for the miners.
The film struck home because it reminded me of the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909 that eventually led to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. In the Cherry Mine Disaster, the culprits were fire, smoke and the dreaded “black damp”, which is the mining term for a mixture of carbon dioxide and other unbrethable gases that build up in mines causing poisoning, asphyxiation and death. In “Mine 9”, the miners battle “Firedamp” which is the term for methane. Methane can build up in mines, and when it accumulates in sufficient quantities it can displace oxygen just like “black damp” and cause asphyxia and death. I’ll avoid spoiling the movie for you, but as you’ve probably surmised, it is not a happy ending.
I talk about the Cherry Mine Disaster in the opening of my recent book, “The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Field Manual”. If you are interested in learning more about the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of “Trapped: The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster” by Karen Tintori, or “Black Damp: The Story of The Cherry Mining Disaster” by Steve Stout. And of course, check out “Mine 9” on Netflix this weekend!
If you would like to know more about how workers’ compensation law works in Illinois, you can read all about it in my new book: The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Field Guide. The book is available via Kindle and in paperback. You can also reach out to me if you find yourself in a bad situation with a workers’ comp claim, or if you’ve been injured at work and want to start off on the right foot. All initial consultations are free of charge. I look forward to hearing from you!