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Mount Mulligan mine disaster in Australia 1921. These cable drums were blown 50 feet (15 m) from their foundations following a coal dust explosion.

A mining accident is an accident that occurs in the process of mining minerals.

Thousands of miners die from mining accidents each year, especially in the process of coal mining and hard rock mining. Most of the deaths today 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 sulphide[1] or explosive natural gases especially firedamp or methane,[2] dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, mining-induced seismicity[3], 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 trigger methane and coal dust explosions.

Accidents by country



Probably the most famous accidents in Canada are collectively referred to as the Springhill mining disasters.


The worst coal mining disaster in the world took place on April 26, 1942 in Benxihu Colliery, located at Benxi, Liaoning. A coal-dust explosion killed 1,549 miners working that day.

China currently accounts for the largest number of coal-mining fatalities, accounting for about 80% of the world’s total, although it produces only 35% of the world’s coal.[4] Between January 2001 to October 2004, there were 188 accidents that had a death toll of more than 10, about one such accident every 7.4 days.[4] 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 pointed out serious problems such as violation of safety standards and overproduction in some coal mines. Three billion yuan (360 million US dollars) were earmarked 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.[5]

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% rise in production.[6]

The New York Times reported that China's lack of a free press, independent trade unions, citizen watchdog groups and other checks on 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 ties to companies involved. Under China’s authoritarian system, superiors reward subordinates for strict compliance with targets set from above, like reducing mine disasters. Indeed, should a mining accident occur, the incentive to hide it is often stronger than the reward for handling it well, as a disaster on a bureaucrat’s watch is almost surely a blot on his career, while successfully concealing it means that it may never be uncovered.[7]

In November 2009, a mining accident in Heilongjiang killed at least 104. 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 have been promptly fired.


Le Petit Journal illustration of the Courrières mine disaster

The Courrières mine disaster was the worst ever pit 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.

New Zealand

The most notable mining accident in New Zealand is the 1896 Brunner Mine disaster.


Several major mining accidents happened in Poland. See List of mining disasters in Poland.


Several major mining accidents happened in Russia, particularly the Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster.

United Kingdom

The Gresford Disaster memorial

Over 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 men and boys - either directly during the explosion or by suffocation in the poisonous gases formed. The total death toll from these disasters was 3,119.

The four worst accidents were:

Some collieries e.g. Morfa Colliery, near Port Talbot, Glamorgan and Black Vein Colliery, Risca, Monmouthshire suffered three disasters before it was decided to close them for being unsafe.

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, Westhoughton, Lancashire in 1910, claimed the lives of 344 [8]. An explosion in 1878, at the Wood Pit, Haydock, Lancashire, killed over 200 men and boys, however, only 189 were included in the 'official list'.[9] Another disaster which 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 men 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;[10] 12 killed at Wheal Agar in 1883 when a cage fell down a shaft;[11] and seven killed at Dolcoath mine in 1893 when a large stull collapsed.[12]

The worst mining accident in Scotland is the Blantyre mining disaster in Blantyre, Lanarkshire which claimed 207 lives in 1877.

United States

The Monongah Mining Disaster was the worst mining accident in American history; 362 men and young boys were killed in an underground explosion on December 6, 1907 in Monongah, West Virginia.

From 1880 to 1910, mine accidents claimed thousands of fatalities. 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 industry. Where annual mining deaths had numbered more than 1,000 a year in the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 500 in the late 1950s, and to 93 during the 1990s.[13] 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 in 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, a disaster occurred in 1869 known as the Avondale mine disaster, resulting in the deaths of 108 miners and 2 rescue workers after a fire in the only shaft ate the oxygen in the mine. Federal laws on mining safety ensued this disaster. In 2006, 72 miners lost their lives at work, 47 in coal mining. The majority of these fatalities occurred in Kentucky and West Virginia, including the Sago Mine Disaster.[14][15]

See also


  1. ^ Kucuker H. Occupational fatalities among coal mine workers in Zonguldak, Turkey, 1994-2003. Occup Med (Lond). 2006 Mar;56(2):144-6. PMID 16490795
  2. ^ Terazawa K, Takatori T, Tomii S, Nakano K. Methane asphyxia. Coal mine accident investigation of distribution of gas. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1985 Sep;6(3):211-4. PMID 3870672
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Coal mining: Most deadly job in China Zhao Xiaohui & Jiang Xueli, Xinhua News Agency, Updated: 2004-11-13 15:01
  5. ^ China takes steps to halt coal mine disasters Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the U.S.A., 02 Feb 2005
  6. ^ China sees coal mine deaths fall, but outlook grim 11 Jan 2007, Reuters
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Corin, John (1992). Levant, A Champion Cornish Mine. The Trevithick Society. pp. 40–44. ISBN 0-904040-37-2. 
  11. ^ Vivian, John (1970). "The Wheal Agar Skip Disaster". Tales of the Cornish Miners. St. Austell: H. E. Warne Ltd. pp. 22–24. 
  12. ^ Vivian, John (1970). "When the Bottom of Dolcoath Fell In". Tales of the Cornish Miners. St. Austell: H. E. Warne Ltd. pp. 38–40. 
  13. ^ Historical Data on Mine Disasters in the United States U.S. Department of Labor
  14. ^ All Mining Fatalities By State U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, 15 Jan 2007
  15. ^ Coal Fatalities By State U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, 15 Jan 2007

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