Pad500 - Assignment 1 - Centralia No. 5

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Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion

Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion
On March 25, 1947, a blast in Centralia Coal Mine killed 111 workers. Centralia Coal Mine No. 5 had been operational since 1907 and had never suffered a major disaster. Prior to this event only four shotfirers were killed in 1921 (Fleege). Because of the safety record of the mine, it was considered relatively safe and a disaster seemed remote. The United States had just ended a war and the economy was picking up and production needs were relatively high. Mine operators were being pushed by the federal government to produce as much coal as possible to meet the demands of the robust economy. Because of the demand, safety factors in the mines were not a top priority, therefore, conditions deteriorated tremendously during this period. Key players in the mine disaster were Driscoll Scanlan, mine investigator; Robert M. Medill, Director of the Department of Mines and Minerals and Scanlan’s supervisor; Robert Weir, Assistant Director; Darryl Green, Illinois Republican Governor; and Centralia Coal Mine officials. “Centralia Coal Company Mine No. 5 was owned by the Centralia Coal Company, an appendage of the Bell & Zoller empire,” and the main office was in Chicago, Illinois (Martin). The mine employed approximately 250 employees and produced about 2,000 tons of coal daily. Driscoll Scanlan was assigned to the position by Governor Green as a political appointee. The responsibility of a mine inspector was to “police the mine operators – to see that they comply with the state mining law, including its numerous safety provisions.” The mine inspector also had the power to close a mine if he felt there was imminent danger of an explosion, even though this power was rarely used by an inspector (Martin). For over two years, despite numerous negative reports filed by mine inspector, Driscoll Scanlan; site visits and noted violations filed by Federal Inspector Perz; complaints made by mine...
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