Risky business: A pentadic analysis of two West Virginia coal mining disasters  

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Virginia Tech


In just five years West Virginia was rocked with two devastating disasters in the coal mining industry. Despite the disasters, West Virginians could not just walk away from the mines, as they depended on the coal industry for jobs and tax revenue. West Virginia had built a purpose-driven orientation towards the coal industry through a historical and current dependency on coal. However, the two disasters had a chance to alter that dominant orientation. In order to understand how or if the coal orientation was altered, by the disaster or the discourse that followed, a pentadic analysis was completed. The analysis revealed that the coal companies constantly battled a tension between the elements of agency and purpose, while trying to overcome a scene that made safety challenging. In the end, one mining company altered the purpose-driven orientation, as the other reinforced the orientation. As both of the situations offered different orientations towards coalmining, their orientations showed that coal companies can be purpose-driven providers but also a responsible provider, understanding not only that miners need a paycheck, but also safety. In the end, when companies use the purpose-driven orientation, created from the history, present, and future of the West Virginia coal industry, their orientation drives profits and reduces the importance of safety for the coal miners, making coal mining a risky business. However, after just one disaster, despite the mining company's orientation, the companies become providers to no one



Burke, Pentad, West Virginia, Coal, Crisis