Mining accident

For a broader coverage related to this topic, see List of accidents and disasters by death toll.

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 these days 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[1] or explosive natural gases, especially firedamp or methane,[2] 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.

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.[3] 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.[4] Of those killed, 1,518 were Chinese, and 31 were Japanese. Afterwards, several bodies were buried in a mass grave. According to a follow-up 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.[5]

Accidents by year

Monongah Mining disaster West Virginia, USA 1907.
Senghenydd pit, U.K. 1913.
The Farmington coal mine disaster kills 78. West Virginia, US, 1968.

This is an incomplete list of notable mining accidents and disasters:

19th century

20th century

21st century

A total of 8382 deaths are listed above.

Accidents by country


Breaking the News, painted by Australian artist John Longstaff in 1887, depicts a miner informing a widow of her husband's death in a mining accident.
Mount Mulligan disaster 1921-the steel cable drums were blown 50 feet from their foundations.

The Bulli Mine Disaster of 23 March 1887 involved a gas explosion in the mine that killed 81 men and boys, leaving 50 women widows and 150 children without fathers.

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.

A coal dust explosion at the Mount Mulligan mine on 19 September 1921 killed 75 or 76 workers.

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.[16] 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.

In the 1996 Gretley coal mine disaster, near Newcastle, four men were killed when their mining machine broke into the flooded workings of an old coalmine, abandoned over 80 years earlier.[17][18]

Four miners were killed in a windblast incident at the Northparkes mine outside the New South Wales town of Parkes in 1999.[19]


On March 4, 1887, 120 miners died in a coal mine in La Boule, Borinage due to a methane explosion.[20]

On the morning of August 8, 1956, a fire in the mine Bois du Cazier in Marcinelle caused 262 victims, with only 12 survivors.[21] 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.[22])

Bosnia and Herzegovina

On September 4, 2014, after a 3.5 Richter earthquake hit Zenica caused rock burst in coal mine "Raspotočje", 34 miners remained trapped inside the mine. It was later reported that 5 miners were killed in the accident.[23]


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 1887 Nanaimo mine explosion in Nanaimo, British Columbia killed 150 miners at the No 1 Esplanade Mine. Explosives were laid improperly triggering a massive mine-wide explosion. Most miners were killed instantly, only 7 survived. Of the 150 workers killed, 53 of them were Chinese, the names of which are mostly unknown.

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

In June 2013, heavy rains provoked the collapse of a gold mine in Ndassima, killing 37 miners and injuring many others.[24]


Image of hand written note in Spanish, reading ""Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33")
the note sent by the Chilean miners in 2010: "We are well in the shelter, the 33")

In June 1945, during a fire, 355 workers died in El Teniente by inhaling carbon monoxide, in what was called the "Tragedia del Humo" (English: The Smoke Tragedy).

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 in Copiapó. 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.[25]


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.[26] 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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30][31] A few days later on September 3, 2012 14 miners were killed at Gaokeng Coal Mine in Jiangxi province.[32]

On March 29, 2013, a landslide trapped 83 people in the Gyama Mine in Tibet.[33]

On 4 January 2014 The Chinese Government stated that 1,049 people died in the year 2013, down 24 percent from 2012.[34]


About 300 people were killed on May 9, 1993 in the Nambija mine disaster in Ecuador.[35]

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.[36]


Le Petit Journal illustration of the Courrières mine disaster

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.



Mine disaster of a number occurs from the 1900s to 1980s in Japan, with introduce only large-scale disaster.[38]


The twelve mines in the Netherlands, four of which were state owned, were considered among the safest in the world, with only three larger accidents occurring during 70 years of mining:

-On 13 July 1928 a methane gas explosion killed 13 miners in the state-owned mine Hendrik in Brunssum.

-On 24 March 1947 13 miners from Staatsmijn Hendrik were killed in a fire caused by an overheated conveyor belt.

-On 3 March 1958 7 miners lost their lives when a cave-in occurred at Staatsmijn Maurits in Geleen.

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.[39]


On November 25, 2006, the worst mining disaster occurred in modern Polish history, 23 miners lost their lives at Halemba Coal Mine, 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.[40]


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.[41]

South Africa

A number of major mining accidents happened in South Africa including the following accidents:


The three worst mining accidents in Taiwan all happened in 1984:


At least 56 miners were killed in April 1998 after heavy rains flooded tanzanite mine shafts.[48] 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.[49]


In March 1983, in the Armutçuk coal mine 103 miners died due to a methane gas explosion.[50]

In March 1992 at the TCC Kozla mine, 263 miners were killed due to a firedamp explosion[51]

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.

In May 2014, in Soma, Manisa there was a major mine collapse caused by an explosion. More than 302 workers lost their lives in the collapse and at least 80 workers were injured.[52][53][54][55]

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.[56]

United Kingdom


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.[57] An explosion in 1878, at the Wood Pit, Haydock, Lancashire, killed over 200 workers, although only 189 were included in the 'official list'.[58] 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;[59] 12 killed at Wheal Agar in 1883 when a cage fell down a shaft;[60] and seven killed at Dolcoath mine in 1893 when a large stull collapsed.[61]


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.[62]


Crowd gathering at the pit head of the Senghenydd Colliery after the explosion in October 1913

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:

Some collieries, e.g. Morfa Colliery,[64] near Port Talbot, Glamorgan, and Black Vein Colliery, Risca, Monmouthshire, suffered three disasters before they were closed for being unsafe.

United States

The Scofield Mine disaster was a mining accident on May 1, 1900 in which at least 200 workers died.

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

The First Dawson Disasters was a mining accident on October 22, 1913 in Dawson, New Mexico in which 263 men died (146 were Italian and 36 were Greek).

The Second Dawson Disasters was a mining accident on February 8, 1923 in Dawson, New Mexico in which 123 men died.

The Cherry Mine disaster was a fire in the Cherry, Illinois, coal mine in 1909, and surrounding events, in which 259 men and boys died.

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.[65] 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.[66][67] 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. Since the closure of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1996, this research function has been carried on by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


The Kamandama mine disaster - Hwange in June 1972 was one of the worst ever mining disasters with 426 fatalities.


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nkululeko mokoena mining student at the University of Johannesburg

Further reading

External links

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