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5 Mining Tragedies – Not Forgotten

Mining Tragedies

Mining has come a long way with regards to safety. But sadly, we still lose too many of our mining family to tragedies. These men and women of mining put their lives on the line daily. All to provide vital minerals, hard rock, metals, and rare earth metals that have become vital to our lives.

Because I specialize recruiting into mining, I know that safety is synonymous with mining. Some of these disasters were caused by a pure accident; some alleged negligence, and others by safety violations.

This is a somber post, but a very important one to remind us that our lives can change in the blink of an eye.

Here are 5 mining tragedies that the world has not forgotten:

  1. The Vale Tailings Dam Collapse – Brazil

Vale Mining is the world’s largest iron ore producer. They burst into the headlines in January of 2019, with reports of catastrophic failure of one of their tailings dams. 154 people were buried alive in toxic mud and a total of 243 lost their lives, as the sludge flowed 5 miles downhill traveling through neighborhoods and covering farmland. This was the second dam break within three years for Vale. As a result, their stock price plummetted and it set the stage for Brazilian Prosecutors to consider filing criminal charges against them.

  1. Sago Mine Collapse – Sago, WV

On January 2, 2006, the town of Sago, West Virginia was changed forever. On that fateful day, 12 Miners lost their lives when a blast ripped through the mine trapping 13 employees in the 2 Left Parallel Section. The ventilation controls were damaged by the explosion and the men attempted to barricade the No. 3 Face. The incident garnered worldwide attention and became worse when officials at the mine released incorrect information. Subsequently, news outlets reported incorrectly that there were 12 survivors. When in fact, there was one survivor and twelve fatalities.

  1. The Hillcrest Mine – Canada

The town of Hillcrest experienced the world’s third worst mining disaster of the time on June 19, 1914. Unfortunately, 235 men entered the mine that fateful morning and 189 would not return home; about half the workforce. The blast ripped through the mine a little after 9 AM. Only 17 of the 189 men who lost their lives were born in Canada; the remainder were immigrants who were looking to make new lives for themselves and their families. Many of the miners were buried in a mass grave at the Hillcrest Cemetery and 9 days later World War I began. After that, attention quickly shifted from the disaster in Hillcrest.

  1. The Sunshine Mine – Kellogg, ID

Deep in the heart of Silver Valley of Kellogg, ID lies the Sunshine Mine, one of the most prosperous mines in the Silver Valley. On the fated day of May 2, 1972, 173 workers headed out to start work approximately 3,700 feet underground. A few hours into the shift, two employees noticed smoke and shouted out a warning to the other miners. Soon after, the toxic smoke overtook the miners. While many were able to make it out safely, 91 did not.

The small community was devastated at the loss of their friends, family, and neighbors. The cause of the fire was never found. Every year on May 2nd, people gather for the Miner’s Day Ceremony to honor and remember those who lost their lives that fateful day.

  1. Granite Mountain – Butte, MT

On the eve of June 8, 1917, 410 men were underground working their night shift at Granite Mountain. In an unfortunate chain of events, a carbide lamp set fire to an armored power cable, which quickly spread to a flammable oiled fabric. Then, the blaze caught the shaft timbers on fire. As a result, the mine rapidly filled with smoke and gas as the workers scrambled to escape. Out of the 410 men, 247 were able to escape, while sadly 163 perished. In the end, it took 8 days of concentrated efforts to contain the fire and rescue the victims.

The first priority and concern of all in the mining industry must be the health and safety of our most precious resource, the miner. Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.

The People of Mining have heart and soul. I know, because I talk to them every single day in my line of work. Memorials are to honor the fallen and recognize the risks that these brave men and women make every day. In recognition, Congress has designated December 6th as National Miner’s Day to honor the sacrifices of miners past and present.

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Spring is Here and Idled Mines Are Roaring Back to Life

safety

It was a long winter, and all the off-season work and preparation you’ve done for this spring is about to be put into action. You’re chomping at the bit to start the engines, push some buttons, and start producing. But before you do that, please take a moment and think about safety.

Did you know April is the second deadliest month in the metal and non-metal industry, with 50 fatalities since 2000? Here are a few good reminders to help keep everyone safe, especially during the first few months of producing, when the weather may only allow you to run intermittently.

New Employees

Very often you will have new employees joining your team when your season begins. Whether these employees are industry veterans or brand new to mining, designate time to train and establish safe work practices. Refresh on manufacturers’ specifications for safe equipment operation and make sure to focus training on unfamiliar or new tasks.

First Aid and Emergency Response Procedures

Make sure all employees understand and follow these procedures! It is imperative that you designate a competent person to be available at all times in case of an emergency. This person should be trained and able to provide first aid, including artificial respiration, bleeding control, treatment of shock and burns.

Plan and Communicate

Early in the season, allow extra time to complete tasks and projects. It is common for routine tasks to take longer than normal. Allowing extra time will help ensure they are being completed safely and correctly. Communicate clear instructions, including how to mitigate risk and the proper use of safety equipment.

It’s going to be a busy 2019 in the metal and non-metal industry. Just keep in mind safety has to always come first. It only takes one small moment of carelessness for an accident to happen. Always keep your guard up and look out for one another. Have a great season and let’s all go home safe.

Interesting Facts On The History Of Safety In Mining

Interesting Facts On The History Of Safety In Mining

Interesting Facts On The History Of Safety In Mining

Safety and mining have not always had a cohesive partnership.  It took an act of Congress in 1891, to establish minimum ventilation requirements for underground coal mines and to protect children under the age of 12 from being employed by mine operators. Fast forward to 2017-2018 and most would look back at the safety conditions of the 1800’s and shudder. Thankfully, Miners in the U.S. are more protected now, than ever.

Here are some interesting facts you may not know!

  • In 1906 children as young as 12 years old were working underground in coal mines. Broken limbs and crushed fingers were common.
  • 1907 is the deadliest year in history for coal mining, it is estimated that 3242 people were killed.  That year also marked the worst explosion in mining history, killing 358 people in West Virginia.
  • In 1910 Congress established the Bureau of Mines to conduct research and to reduce accidents within the coal mining industry.  This new bureau was a direct result of a prior decade of fatalities, which exceeded 2000 individuals annually.  While the Bureau of Mines could conduct researches on the accidents, they were not given inspection authority until 1941.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed by Congress in 1938, prohibiting the use of workers under 18 for occupations that were deemed dangerous.
  • In 1977, Congress passed the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), which currently governs MSHA’s activities. The passing of this legislation saw mining fatalities drop from 272 in 1977 to 86 in 2000.
  • In 2004, 55 occupational mining fatalities were reported to MSHA.  16 of those were in underground mines and 39 were at surface locations.
  • There were 8 coal fatalities in 2016.
  • The most recent legislation was passed in 2006 with the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act). This amended the Mine Act and required immediate notification of mine accidents; mandated mine-specific emergency response plans for underground coal mines and enhanced civil penalties.

There is no argument that Mining has become safer for the workers, over the centuries.  With legislation to protect workers, companies implementing good safety procedures and workers practicing them, the fatality numbers continue to decline.  The year we hit zero fatalities, will be a very good year indeed!