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Mine disasters have been a focal point among mine operators and miners, safety and health personnel, and mine safety and health researchers in the United States for decades. Hundreds of disasters, resulting in thousands of mine worker deaths, have occurred in mines since 1900. In fact, the period 1900 through 1909 was the deadliest decade in U.S. underground coal mining, and led to the legislation that founded the Bureau of Mines with the express mandate of reducing fatalities in the mining industry. Below are some of the more notable mine disasters that occurred in, and the areas surrounding, western Maryland in the early 1900s.
Blog created by the recipient of the 2017 Arthur St. Clair Historic Preservation Award in Pennsylvania. This section includes history, primary documents, and photographs about Darr Mine and the disaster that struck on December 19, 1907.
In 1876, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the State's first mining law which included a provision that established a Mine Inspector of Allegany and Garrett Counties (Maryland) who would inspect mining operations and annually prepare a report on The Conditions of the Coal and Clay Mines within the State of Maryland. The Maryland Bureau of Mines Coal Division has curated reports from 1876 to the present.
The Farmington Mine disaster was an explosion that happened at approximately 5:30 a.m. on November 20, 1968, at the Consol No. 9 coal mine north of Farmington and Mannington, West Virginia, United States. The explosion was large enough to be felt in Fairmont, almost 12 miles away. At the time, 99 miners were inside. Over the course of the next few hours, 21 miners were able to escape the mine, but 78 were still trapped. All who were unable to escape perished; the bodies of 19 of the dead were never recovered. The cause of the explosion was never determined, but the accident served as the catalyst for several new laws that were passed to protect miners.
The Monongah mining disaster of Monongah, West Virginia occurred on December 6, 1907, and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American history". The explosion occurred in Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines, and was one of the contributing events leading to the creation of the United States Bureau of Mines.
An explosion rocks the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia on January 2, 2006. 13 coal miners were trapped, and all but one eventually died. The tragedy, exacerbated by false reports that 12 of the miners had been rescued, brought scrutiny upon the media, the company that owned the mine and the administration of then-president George W. Bush.