As a former trauma surgeon in West Virginia, this author has noted with sadness the death of twenty five miners in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Boone County, West Virginia. Dozens more are reported to be seriously injured.
West Virginia coal miners are some of the toughest people on earth. Despite advances in mine safety, it is still incredibly dirty, difficult and dangerous work.
Mine injuries generally fall into one of four categories – blast injuries, crush injuries, asphyxiation, and drowning.
The traumatic injury to internal organs in mining blast injuries is more severe than other situations where blast injury occurs (refineries, battlefied) because the concussive force is multiplied by the small space of the mine shafts, unlike in open terrain where the force can dissipate.
Mine explosions can generate an horrific amount of energy and have been responsible for many of the biggest mining disasters in history.