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A mining accident is an accident that occurs during the process of mining minerals. Thousands of miners die from mining accidents each year, especially in the processes of coal mining and hard rock mining. Most of the deaths nowadays occur in developing countries, especially China and rural parts of developed countries.
Mining accidents can have a variety of causes, including leaks of poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulfide or explosive natural gases, especially firedamp or methane, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, mining-induced seismicity, flooding, or general mechanical errors from improperly used or malfunctioning mining equipment (such as safety lamps or electrical equipment). Use of improper explosives underground can also cause methane and coal-dust explosions.
- 1 Worst mining disaster in history
- 2 Accidents by year
- 3 Accidents by country
- 3.1 Australia
- 3.2 Belgium
- 3.3 Canada
- 3.4 Central African Republic
- 3.5 Chile
- 3.6 China
- 3.7 Ecuador
- 3.8 France
- 3.9 Netherlands
- 3.10 New Zealand
- 3.11 Poland
- 3.12 Russia
- 3.13 South Africa
- 3.14 Taiwan
- 3.15 Tanzania
- 3.16 Turkey
- 3.17 United Kingdom
- 3.18 United States
- 3.19 Zimbabwe
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
Worst mining disaster in history
On April 26, 1942 in the Benxihu (Honkeiko) Colliery (coal mine), what is believed to have been the world's worst mining disaster took place, killing 1,549 miners. The disaster occurred in an area that is now within the bounds of modern-day China, but was then in a portion of China occupied by the Japanese, just north of present-day Korea. The Japanese administrators of the mine had the actual mining work performed by forced Chinese labor under harsh conditions. The disaster first began with a mine fire, but at the time, a hasty decision was made by the Japanese mine operators to promptly cut off the ventilation and to completely seal off the mine to kill the fire. This reportedly left many unevacuated workers still alive within the sealed-off area of the mine to eventually also suffocate. Once the fire was put out in this manner and the mine re-opened, it took 10 days to remove all of the bodies. Of those killed, 1,518 were Chinese, and 31 were Japanese. Afterwards, several bodies were buried in a mass grave. According to a followup investigation carried out by the Soviet Union, the majority of the fatalities were not caused by the initial fire, but instead were the result of secondary carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation.
Accidents by year
This is an incomplete list of notable mining accidents and disasters:
See also 19th-century mining disasters
- 1872: Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster in Pelsall, West Midlands. 23 people died.
- 1899: Sumitomo Besshi bronze mine area, landslide with debris flow disaster, Niihama, Shikoku, Japan, 512 died.
See also 20th-century mining disasters
- March 10, 1906: Courrières mine disaster in Courrières, France. 1,099 workers died, including children, in the worst mine accident in Europe.
- December 1, 1907: Naomi Mine Explosion in Fayette City, PA. 34 workers died.
- December 6, 1907: Monongah Mining Disaster in Monongah, WV. Official death toll is 362, but due to inadequate record keeping, the true death toll could be around 500. Victims were mostly Italian immigrants, including children. Considered the worst coal mining accident in American history.
- December 19, 1907: Darr Mine Disaster in Rostraver Township, PA. 239 workers died, including children.
- November 13, 1909: Cherry Mine Disaster in Cherry, IL. 259 workers, some as young as eleven, died. The worst mine fire by deaths in America.
- October 14, 1913: Senghenydd Colliery Disaster, the worst Mining accident in the United Kingdom, 439 workers died.
- October 22, 1913: Dawson Stag Mountain Mine Disaster, near Dawson, New Mexico, where 263 workers were killed due to illegal use of dynamite.
- 1927–1932: Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster, near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, United States. Over several years, 476 workers died from silicosis.
- April 26, 1942: Benxihu Colliery disaster in Benxi, Liaoning, China. 1,549 workers died, in the worst coal mine accident ever in the world.
- August 8, 1956: Bois du Cazier disaster in Marcinelle, Belgium. A fire in the mines resulted in 262 casualties; of the 274 people working in Bois du Cazier on that morning, only twelve survived. Most of the victims were Italian immigrants.
- 1960: Coalbrook, South Africa, 437 died.
- 9 May 1960: Laobaidong colliery coal dust explosion Datong, China, 682 died.
- 9 November 1963: Mitsui Miike Coal Mine disaster Mitsui Miike, Ōmuta, Fukuoka, Japan, 458 died.
- May 28, 1965: Dhanbad coal mine disaster took place in Jharkhand, India, killing over 300 miners.
- October 21, 1966: Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil-tip that occurred in the Welsh village of Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults.
- November 20, 1968: Farmington Mine Disaster in Farmington, WV. 78 workers died. As a result of the disaster, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.
- 1972: Wankie coal mine disaster Wankie, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, 426 fatalities.
- July 19, 1985: Val di Stava dam collapse took place in the village of Stava, near Tesero, Italy, when two tailings dams used for sedimenting the mud from the nearby Prestavel mine, failed. It resulted in one of Italy's worst disasters, killing 268 people, destroying 63 buildings and demolishing eight bridges.
- May 9, 1993: Nambija mine disaster, Nambija, Ecuador. Approximately 300 people were killed in a land slide
See also 21st-century mining disasters
- January 30, 2000: Baia Mare cyanide spill took place in Baia Mare, Romania. The accident, called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl, was a release of 100,000 tons of cyanide contaminated water by an Aurul mining company due to reservoir broke into the rivers Someş, Tisza and Danube. Although no human fatalities were reported, the leak killed up to 80% of aquatic life of some of the affected rivers.
- April 5, 2010: Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, West Virginia, United States. An explosion occurred in Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal. Twenty-nine out of thirty-one miners at the site were killed.
- November 19, 2010: Pike River Mine disaster in New Zealand. At 3:45pm, the coal mine exploded. Twenty-nine men underground died immediately, or shortly afterwards, from the blast or from the toxic atmosphere. Two men in the stone drift, some distance from the mine workings, managed to escape. (Extract from Royal Commission of Enquiry Report on Pike River.)
- May 13, 2014: Soma mine disaster took place in Soma, Turkey. The accident, called the worst mining accident ever in Turkey, and it is the worst mining accident in 21st century so far. 301 people died.
A total of 8382 deaths are listed above.
Accidents by country
- See also Coal mining disasters by country
The Mount Kembla Mine Disaster of 31 July 1902 was an explosion resulting in the death of 96 miners, including two engaged in rescue work. It remains the worst mining disaster in Australian history.
An explosion at the Mount Mulligan mine on 19 September 1921 killed 75 workers. Only 11 bodies could be recovered.
Tasmania's Beaconsfield Mine collapse occurred on 25 April 2006. Of the 17 people who were in the mine at the time, 14 escaped immediately following the collapse, one was killed and the remaining two were found alive after five days. The survivors were trapped in a 1.5m x 1.2m cherry picker cage, which had saved them from being crushed by rocks. As it was not safe for rescuers to blast their way through, a special borer was brought in to drill an escape shaft. They were finally released on 9 May after 14 days underground.
Three mining disasters occurred at Moura in a 20-year period. The first of these was in 1975, at the Kianga Mine, where 13 men died in an underground explosion. The mine was sealed without their bodies being retrieved. In 1986 a second disaster occurred, as an underground explosion, which took the lives of 12 miners. The bodies of all those persons were retrieved. In Moura on 7 August 1994 a third major mining accident occurred with an explosion at Moura No. 2 Mine. A second explosion at the mine approximately a day and a half later saw rescue attempts abandoned, and the mine was sealed, with the bodies of the 11 miners unretrieved.
- See also Mining disasters in Belgium
On the morning of August 8, 1956, a fire in the mine Bois du Cazier in Marcinelle caused 262 victims, with only 12 survivors. A mining cart on an elevator cage hit an oil pipe and electricity lines, with the resulting fire trapping the miners. Most of the victims were immigrants (136 Italians, 8 Poles, 6 Greeks, 5 Germans, 5 Frenchmen, 3 Hungarians, 1 Englishman, 1 Dutchman, 1 Russian and 1 Ukrainian.)
- See also Mining disasters in Canada
The most well-known mining accidents in Canada have all occurred within the province of Nova Scotia. The most serious of them was a series of three coal mining disasters spanning 65 years referred to collectively as the Springhill mining disasters, which claimed in total at least 138 lives of men and boys due to coal dust explosions. The Westray Mine disaster in 1992 claimed the lives of 26 miners in a methane/coal dust explosion at a recently opened mining operation. Both of these mines were subsequently permanently closed in the wake of these events.
The Hillcrest mine disaster, the worst coal mining disaster of Canadian history, occurred in Alberta in 1914. Deaths from the methane and coal dust-fueled explosion numbered 189; news coverage was eclipsed by the First World War. The mine remained in use until 1939.
Central African Republic
See also Mining disasters in Chile
In January 2006, an explosion occurred in a mine in Copiapó, leaving 70 miners trapped underground. The miners were rescued after a brief period of time, but two people died.
In August 2010, 33 miners were trapped underground. After two weeks communication was made with them but it was said at least four more months would pass before they could be rescued, though essential services could still be provided. The rescues began on October 12, 2010 and all the 33 miners were rescued within 22 hours of first rescue. The world watched and cheered.
According to one source, in 2003 China accounted for the largest number of coal-mining fatalities, accounting for about 80% of the world’s total, although it produced only 35% of the world’s coal. Between January 2001 and October 2004, there were 188 accidents that had a death toll of more than 10, about one such accident every 7.4 days. After the 2005 Sunjiawan mine disaster, which killed at least 210 miners, a meeting of the State Council was convened to work on measures to improve work safety in coal mines. The meeting's statement indicated serious problems such as violation of safety standards and overproduction in some coal mines. Three billion yuan (360 million US dollars) were dedicated for technological renovation on work safety, gas management in particular, at state-owned major coal mines. The government also promised to send safety supervision teams to 45 coal mines with serious gas problems and invite colliery safety experts to evaluate safety situations in coal mines and formulate prevention measures.
In 2006, according to the State Work Safety Supervision Administration, 4,749 Chinese coal miners were killed in thousands of blasts, floods, and other accidents. For example, a gas explosion at the Nanshan Colliery killed 24 people on November 13, 2006; the mine was operating without any safety license and the Xinhua News Agency claimed the cause was incorrect usage of explosives. However, the 2006 rate was 20.1% less than 2005 despite an 8.1% increase in production.
The New York Times reported that China's lack of a free press, independent trade unions, citizen watchdog groups and other checks of official power has made cover-ups of mining accidents more possible, even in the Internet age. As a result, Chinese bureaucrats habitually hide scandals (such as mine disasters, chemical spills, the 2003 SARS epidemic, and tainted milk powder) for fear of being held accountable by the ruling Communist Party or exposing their own illicit deals with companies involved. Under China’s authoritarian system, superiors reward subordinates for strict compliance with goals established by authorities, like reducing mine disasters. Indeed, should a mining accident occur, the incentive to hide it is often stronger than the reward for managing it well, as any disaster is almost surely considered a liability.
In November 2009, a mining accident in Heilongjiang killed at least 104 people. It is thought to have been caused by a methane explosion followed by a coal dust explosion. Three top officials involved with the mining company were promptly dismissed.
On August 30, 2012 an explosion killed 45 people at the Xiaojiawan coal mine in Sichuan province. A few days later on September 3, 2012 14 miners were killed at Gaokeng Coal Mine in Jiangxi province.
On 4 January 2014 The Chinese Government stated the 1,049 people died in the year 2013, down 24 percent from 2012.
On October 15, 2010, shortly after Chile completed its historic, successful rescue of 33 miners who had been stuck underground in the San Jose mine for a record period of nearly 10 weeks, four workers were trapped in an Ecuadoran gold mine following a tunnel collapse. All were confirmed dead by October 20.
- See also Mining disasters in France
The Courrières mine disaster was the worst ever pit mine disaster in Europe. It caused the death of 1,099 miners (including many children) in Northern France on 10 March 1906. It seems that this disaster was surpassed only by the Benxihu Colliery accident in China on April 26, 1942, which killed 1,549 miners. A dust explosion, the cause of which is not known with certainty, devastated a coal mine operated by the Compagnie des mines de houille de Courrières (founded in 1852) between the villages of Méricourt (404 killed), Sallaumines (304 killed), Billy-Montigny (114 killed), and Noyelles-sous-Lens (102 killed) about two kilometres (one mile) to the east of Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais département (about 220 km, or 140 miles, north of Paris).
A large explosion was heard shortly after 06:30 on the morning of Saturday 10 March 1906. An elevator cage at Shaft 3 was thrown to the surface, damaging pit-head workings; windows and roofs were blown out on the surface at Shaft 4; an elevator cage raised at Shaft 2 contained only dead and unconscious miners.
- See also Mining disasters in New Zealand
The most notable mining accident in New Zealand is the 1896 Brunner Mine disaster, which killed all 65 miners inside. On 19 November 2010, there were four explosions over nine days at Pike River mine; 29 miners were killed and two escaped with minor injuries.
On 19 January 1967, there was an explosion in the Strongman Mine, near Greymouth, on the West Coast. 19 people were killed.
On November 25, 2006, the worst mining disaster occurred in modern Polish history, 23 miners lost their lives at Halemba, a colliery in the town of Ruda Slaska in the southern industrial province of Silesia. A methane explosion at a depth of 1,030 meters caused the November 21 tragedy. The miners were attempting to retrieve €17 million ($US22 million) worth of equipment from a tunnel when a blast caused the shaft to collapse. The tunnel was supposed to have been closed in March due to dangerously high methane concentrations, but was kept active because of the value of the equipment left behind.
- See also Mining disasters in Russia
Several major mining accidents have happened in Russia, particularly the Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster of 2007, which killed at least 106 miners. On January 20, 2013, at least four miners have died and four more are missing following an accident at a Russian coal mine. The accident happened at a coal mine in the Kuznetsk Basin region of Russia, in western Siberia.
A number of major mining accidents happened in South Africa including the following accidents:
- 417 deaths on 21 January 1960 at Coalbrook North colliery. Coalbrook North colliery was one of the underground collieries of Clydesdale (Transvaal) Collieries Limited and was situated near Sasolburg in the Orange Free State province
- 177 killed on 16 September 1986 at the Kinross gold mine in Evander, Mpumalanga. This is still the world's worst metal mining disaster.
- 64 deaths on 12 September 1983 at Hlobane Colliery near Vryheid, Kwa-Zulu Natal
- 57 deaths on 12 September 1944 at Hlobane Colliery near Vryheid, Kwa-Zulu Natal
- 53 deaths on 13 May 1993 at Middelbult colliery. Middelbult colliery was and is still one of the underground collieries of Sasol Mining situated near the town of Secunda, Mpumalanga
Three worst mining accidents in Taiwan all happened in 1984:
- On June 20, 1984, in Haishan Coal Mine in Tucheng District, a runaway mining cart struck a high voltage transformer and triggered an explosion. 72 miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- On July 10, 1984, 103 miners died in Meishan Coal Mine in Ruifang District as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a fire started in the air compressor chamber.
- On December 5, 1984, an explosion occurred at Haishan Coal Mine No. 1 in Sanxia District. 93 miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning with only one survival who was rescued 93 hours after the initial explosion.
At least 56 miners were killed in April 1998 after heavy rains flooded tanzanite mine shafts. Five people were killed in July 2013 after the tanzanite quarry they were working in the Mererani mining hills collapsed above their heads. A sixth was admitted to hospital in critical condition.
In March 1992 at the TCC Kozla mine, 263 miners were killed due to a firedamp explosion
In 2008 there was another disaster which resulted in one person losing their life. In November 2013, 300 workers barricaded the Zonguldak mine in order to protest the working conditions.
During the year of 2009, in December killed 19 miners due to a methane gas explosion in Bursa Province.
In 2010, there was a mining disaster in Zonguldak Province which resulted in the deaths of 30 workers in a coal mine. The explosion was caused by a firedamp explosion. Previous mining disasters have also occurred here, one in 1992 resulted in the deaths of 270 workers. This was the worst mining disaster until the Soma mine disaster.
Unfortunately, in recent years the Turkish coal mining industry has been found to have the very worst safety record in the world, in terms of fatal accidents per million tons of coal produced. When using the "deaths per million tons of coal production" measure, on any given day, a Turkish coal miner is 360 times more likely to be killed in a Turkish mine than an American coal miner is in an American mine, and 5 times more likely to die from the lax mine safety standards of the Turkish mines than even a Chinese coal miner, whose country places with a distant second in terms of safety related deaths per million tons of coal produced.
In England, The Oaks explosion remains the worst mining accident, claiming 388 lives on 12 December 1866 near Barnsley in Yorkshire. The Hulton Colliery explosion at Westhoughton, Lancashire, in 1910 claimed the lives of 344 miners. An explosion in 1878, at the Wood Pit, Haydock, Lancashire, killed over 200 workers, although only 189 were included in the 'official list'. Another disaster that killed many miners was the Hartley Colliery Disaster, which occurred in January 1862 when the beam of the main steam winding engine broke suddenly and fell into the single shaft serving the pit. It blocked the shaft, and entombed hundreds of miners. The final death toll was 204, most of whom were suffocated by the lack of oxygen in the mine atmosphere.
In the metalliferous mines of Cornwall, some of the worst accidents were at East Wheal Rose in 1846, where 39 workers were killed by a sudden flood; at Levant mine in 1919, where 31 were killed and many injured in a failure of the man engine; 12 killed at Wheal Agar in 1883 when a cage fell down a shaft; and seven killed at Dolcoath mine in 1893 when a large stull collapsed.
The worst mining accident in Scotland is the 1877 Blantyre mining disaster in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, which claimed 207 lives. For several tense days in September 1950, another worst accident happened on the small Ayrshire mining village. The world paused with bated breath as rescuers battled bravely against all odds to reach the 129 men trapped deep underground when a field above where they were working caved-in, flooding the mine workings with thick liquid peat, cutting off all means of escape.
During the period 1850 to 1930 the South Wales coalfield had the worst disaster record. This was due to the increasing number of mines being sunk to greater depths into gas-containing strata, combined with poor safety and management practices. As a result there were nearly forty underground explosions in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire areas of the coalfield during this time. Each accident resulted in the deaths of twenty or more workers - either directly in the explosion or by suffocation by the poisonous gases formed. The total death toll from these disasters was 3,119 people. The four worst accidents in Wales were:
- 439 deaths at the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster at Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion in 1913.
- 290 deaths at the Albion Colliery in Cilfynydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion on 25 June 1894.
- 272 deaths at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn, Monmouthshire, in an explosion of 11 September 1878.
- 266 deaths in the Gresford Disaster near Wrexham in North Wales on 22 September 1934.
From 1880 to 1910, mine accidents claimed thousands of fatalities. Where annual mining deaths had numbered more than 1,000 a year during the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 500 during the late 1950s, and to 93 during the 1990s. In addition to deaths, many thousands more are injured (an average of 21,351 injuries per year between 1991 and 1999), but overall there has been a downward trend of deaths and injuries.
In 1959, the Knox Mine Disaster occurred in Port Griffith, Pennsylvania. The swelling Susquehanna river collapsed into a mine under it and resulted in 12 deaths. In Plymouth, Pennsylvania, the Avondale Mine Disaster of 1869 resulted in the deaths of 108 miners and two rescue workers after a fire in the only shaft eliminated the oxygen in the mine. Federal laws for mining safety resulted from this disaster. Pennsylvania suffered another disaster in 2002 at Quecreek, 9 miners were trapped underground and subsequently rescued after 78 hours. During 2006, 72 miners lost their lives at work, 47 by coal mining. The majority of these fatalities occurred in Kentucky and West Virginia, including the Sago Mine Disaster. On April 5, 2010, in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster an underground explosion caused the deaths of 29 miners.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines was created in 1910 to investigate accidents, advise industry, conduct production and safety research, and teach courses in accident prevention, first aid, and mine rescue. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts of 1969 and 1977 set further safety standards for the mining.
The Wankie coal mine disaster in June 1972 was one of the worst ever mining disasters with 426 fatalities.
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