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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 labour 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 block off the mine to kill the fire. This reportedly left many unevaluated 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 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.[better source needed]
June 8, 1917: Speculator Mine disaster in Butte, Montana. An electric cable being lowered into the mine was accidentally ignited at 2,500 meters below the surface. The fire quickly climbed the cable which ignited the mine's wooden shaft. The shaft thus became a chimney, eliminating the mine's primary source of oxygen. Nearly all of the 168 fatalities were due to asphyxia. It remains the deadliest underground hard rock mining event in American history.
January 12, 1918The Minnie Pit disaster in Staffordshire, United Kingdom was a coal mining accident in which 155 men and boys died (144 from carbon monoxide poisoning and 11 from violence plus carbon monoxide poisoning). The disaster, which was caused by an explosion due to firedamp, is the worst ever recorded in the North Staffordshire Coalfield. An official investigation never established what caused the ignition of flammable gases in the pit.
February 8, 1923 The Dawson Stag Canon #1 Mine Explosion killed 123, many children of those killed in the explosion at the same mine in 1913. The explosion was due to a derailed mine car that caused sparks and ignited coal dust.
July 2, 1937 The Holditch (also known as Brymbo) Colliery disaster was a coal mining accident in Chesterton, Staffordshire, England, in which 30 men died and eight were injured. It was caused due to a fire and subsequent explosions, and was exacerbated by a decision from management to risk the lives of mine workers to try to save the coal seam.
December 10, 1954:Newton Chikli Colliery disaster, Chhindwara (M.P.), India. Flooding of the mine was caused by inrush of water from old workings of the same mine. There were 112 persons inside the mine when it was inundated. 49 persons managed to escape through the incline; the remaining 63 persons were trapped and drowned.
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. 138 of the victims were Italian migrant workers.
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.
16 September 1986Kinross Mining disaster. In South Africa an underground fire killed 177 people.
August 28, 1994:Rajpura Dariba Mine VRM disaster, Dariba, Udaipur, India: This incident occurred due to flooding of the slurry from a mined VRM Underground mining (hard rock)#Mining methods stop where cemented fill could not settle and its plug failed. This slurry accumulated in the plugged shaft which could not take the load and subsequently failed. This created a sudden fall of the all of the material in the shaft, which resulted in the 63 people working below drowning.
10 May 1995Vaal Reefs, South Africa a locomotive fell down a lift shaft and landed on a cage causing the deaths of 104 people.
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 Some?, Tisza and Danube. Although no human fatalities were reported, the leak killed up to 80% of aquatic life of some of the affected rivers.
February 19, 2006: Pasta de Conchos accident. 65 miners lost their lives in the mining accident near Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico. Only 2 bodies have been recovered.
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.
August 5, 2010:2010 Copiapó mining accident, Atacama Desert, Chile. The 121-year-old San José copper-gold mine structurally collapsed at 14:05 CLT The heart of the mountain that has the mass of two Empire State Buildings collapsed leaving catastrophic damage to the mine and blocking all possible escape routes for the 33 miners trapped at 2300 feet. All 33 miners were rescued after 69 days of the Initial accident
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 the 21st century so far. 301 people died.
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.
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.
Four miners were killed in a windblast incident at the Northparkes mine outside the New South Wales town of Parkes in 1999.
On March 4, 1887, 120 miners died in a coal mine in La Boule, Borinage due to a methane explosion.
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.)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On September 4, 2014, after a 3.5 Richter earthquake hit Zenica caused rock burst in coal mine "Raspoto?je", 34 miners remained trapped inside the mine. It was later reported that 5 miners were killed in the accident.
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.
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.
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.
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 March 29, 2013, a landslide trapped 83 people in the Gyama Mine in Tibet.
On 4 January 2014 The Chinese Government stated that 1,049 people died in the year 2013, down 24 percent from 2012.
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.
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 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 EUR17 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.
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.
The history of mining in Spain has left a number of major mining accidents with hundreds of victims. The majority of the accidents and casualties have happened in the North of Spain and are particularly related to coal mining, mainly due to the collapse of structures and gas explosions. Though, the worst recorded accident took place in Villanueva del Río, Sevilla, in the Southwest of the country on 28 April 1904, killing 63 people and leaving several more injured.
A number of major mining accidents happened in South Africa including the following accidents:
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
The 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 12-13 December 1866 near Barnsley in Yorkshire although in the first and main explosion on 340 died, less than at the Hulton colliery but subsequent explosions claimed other lives during the night and the following day.
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 pumping engine broke suddenly and fell into the single shaft serving the pit. The beam blocked the shaft and entombed hundreds of miners. The final death toll was 204, most of whom were suffocated by the lack of oxygen.
Another serious incident occurred in the small Ayrshire mining village of Knockshinnoch in September 1950. For several tense days 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. 116 were rescued but 13 died. A film, The Brave Don't Cry, was made about the distaster in 1952.
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:
The First Dawson Disaster 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 Speculator Mine Disaster occurred in the copper mines of Butte, Montana on June 8, 1917. An electric cable being lowered into the mine was accidentally ignited at 2,500 meters below the surface. The fire quickly climbed the cable, in turn igniting the shaft. The shaft thus became a chimney, eliminating the mine's primary source of oxygen. Nearly all of the 168 fatalities were due to asphyxia. It remains the deadliest underground hard rock mining event in American history.
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. 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.
North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. Nicholas Wood Memorial Library "Mining accidents and safety: a guide to resources". 2016. A guide to books, journals, inspectors' reports, government enquiries, legislation, archival material, etc. in the Institute Library relating to accidents and safety in the UK.