lives. Mine disasters once were really common. In the single year of 1907 there were 18 coal
mine disasters.. Among the disasters in 1907 was history's worst the Monongah coal mine
explosion, which claimed 362 lives and impelled Congress to create the Bureau of Mines. I will
discuss this disaster more later in this paper.
Mine accidents have declined dramatically in number and severity through years of
research, technology, and preventive programs. Today mine accidents resulting in five or more
deaths are no longer common. However preventing recurrence of disasters like those of the past
remains a top priority requiring constant attention by management, labor, and government.
Thus, it happened in 1907 when the Fairmont Coal Company's mine at Monongah, West Virginia
exploded killing 362 men and boys. Congress reacted to the disaster at Monongah by passing and
toughening mining laws.Through disasters such as this one and many others it has forced laws
and regulations, technology,and training which has brought us into mining as we know it.
In 1910, following a decade in which the number of coal mine fatalities exceeded 2,000 annually,
Congress established the Bureau of Mines as a new agency in the Department of the Interior. The
Bureau was charged with the responsibility to conduct research and to reduce accidents in the
coal mining industry. In 1968 less than five miles from Monongah another explosion had
happened and the fire which resulted after killed 78 men at the Consol No 9 mines at
Farmington, West Virginia.
The Farmington explosion resulted in the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of
1969 a far reaching document that promised a new day for the men in an industry that had
claimed more than 100,000 lives since 1900. Even before the Farmington mine had exploded in
1968, there were a push going on for a better mine safety law. The Johnson Administration
introduced a measure in the fall of 1968 that would dramatically strengthen the governments
enforcement tools. It went to Congress too late and didn't hold up. Then came the explosion at
Farmington and there were new converts to the cause of mine safety. That is when the Nixon
Administration expanded upon the Johnson Administration proposals of 1968 and addressed the
potential for mine explosions in proposed legislation. President Nixon went on to sign the
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 on December 30, 1969.
Enforcement powers in coal mines increased greatly, at that time the Act required four annual
inspections for each underground coal mine and two inspections for each surface mine. The Act
for the first time established mandatory fines for all violations and criminal penalties for knowing
and willful violations which was a big step in the right direction in my opinion. The act
eliminated non gassy mines from special legal exemptions. All mines were considered gassy and
additional inspections were required. The powers of the inspectors were expanded and the
inspectors were given the power to close a mine for imminent danger. Miners were given the
right to request a Federal inspection. Safety standards for all coal mines were strengthened under
the 1969 Act and health standards were also adopted. The Act also provided benefits to miners
disabled by black lung disease.
The legacy of the Sunshine Mine disaster is reflected in greatly enhanced miner training
programs and fire protection measures in metal and nonmetal mines across the country. In 1973
the (MESA) Mine Enforcement and Safety Administration was created out of the Bureau of
Mines as the first Federal agency with the sole purpose of assuring miners of a safe, healthful
working environment. Standards requiring mine emergency and...