COLORADO MINING FATALITIES
by Gerald E. Sherard 429 South Moore St. Lakewood, CO 80226-2629

The State of Colorado has a rich history of mining which began in the mid-1800s. Many books have been written about Colorado's mining towns with the most noted authors being John K. Aldrich, Robert L. Brown, Perry Eberhart, and George R. Eicher.

In the mid-1800s there was no organized reporting of mine fatalities but in 1884 the death of 59 miners at the Crested Butte coal mine in Gunnison County inspired the State of Colorado to pass legislation requiring mining companies to report their accidents.


Colorado's major mine accidents, their causes, and number of men killed are as follows:

January 24, 1884, Crested Butte Mine, Gunnison Co., Colorado Coal & Iron Co., gas and dust explosion ignited by a lamp, 59 killed.

November 13, 1885, Bull-Domingo Mine, Custer Co., explosion and fire, 10 killed.

September 9, 1889, White Ash Mine, Jefferson Co., White Ash Coal & Mining Co., inundation with water when Old Loveland shaft broke into White Ash workings, 10 killed.

January 10, 1893, Como No. 5 Mine, Park Co., Park Coal Co., gas and dust explosion form blown out shot, 24 killed.

January 4, 1896, Anna Lee Mine, El Paso Co., caving in of shaft, 8 killed.

February 18, 1896, Vulcan Mine, Garfield Co., A.T.&S.F. Coal Co., Explosion of gas and dust ignited by firing shot in the chute, 49 killed.

September 3, 1897, Sunshine Mine, Garfield Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of gas and dust ignited by a lamp, 12 killed.

November 20, 1901, Smuggler Union Mine, San Miguel Co., fire, 28 killed.

August 7, 1902, Bowen Mine, Las Animas Co., Victor-American Fuel Co., explosion of dust ignited by giant powder, 13 killed.

October 28, 1904, Tercio Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of dust ignited by blown out shots, 19 killed.

February 19, 1906, Maitland Mine, Huerfano Co., Victor-American Fuel Co., explosion of gas caused by open lights, 14 killed.

April 22, 1906, Cuartro Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of gas and dust ignited by open light, 19 killed.

January 23, 1907, Primero Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of gas and dust ignited by a safety lamp, 24 killed.

July 6, 1909, Toller Mine, Las Animas Co., Cedar Hill Coal & Coke Co., explosion of gas caused by open light, 9 killed.

January 31, 1910, Primero Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of gas and dust, 75 killed.

October 8, 1910, Starkville Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel and Iron Co., explosion of dust caused by arc from runaway trip, 56 killed.

November 8, 1910, Victor-American Fuel Co., Las Animas Co., explosion of gas and dust caused by a fire, 79 killed.

December 4, 1910, Leyden mine, Jefferson Co., Leyden Coal Co., mine fire, 10 killed.

February 4, 1911, Coakedale Mine, Las Animas Co., Carbon Coal & Coke Co., explosion of dust caused by a blown-out shot, 17 killed.

June 18, 1912, Hastings Mine, Las Animas Co., Victor-American Fuel Co., explosion of gas caused by a defective safety lamp, 12 killed.

December 16, 1913, Vulcan Mine, Garfield Co., Coryell Mine Leasing, explosion of dust powder caused by an open light, 37 killed.

April 27, 1917, Hastings Mine, Las Animas Co., Victor-American Fuel Co., explosion of gas and dust caused by an open safety lamp, 121 killed.

March 31, 1919, Empire Mine, Las Animas Co., Empire Coal Co., explosion of gas by short circuiting of electric feed wires, 13 killed.

August 18, 1919, Oakdale Mine, Huerfano Co., Oakdale Coal Co., explosion of gas caused by defective safety lamp, 18 killed.

March 24, 1922, Sporis No. 2 Mine, Las Animas Co., Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., explosion of gas and dust ignited by an electric arc-cutting machine, 17 killed.

May 5, 1923, Southwestern Mine, Las Animas Co., Rocky Mountain Fuel Co., explosion of gas and dust ignited by an open light, 10 killed.

January 20, 1936, Monarch No. 2, Mine, Boulder Co., National Fuel Co., explosion of gas caused by an electric arc, 8 killed.

January 27, 1942, Wadge Mine, Routt Co., Victor-American Fuel Co., explosion of gas caused by arc-electric machinery, 34 killed.

December 28, 1965, Dutch Creek Mine, Pitkin Co., Mid-Continent Coal Co., explosion of gas, 9 killed.

April 15, 1981, Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine, Pitkin Co., Mid-Continent Coal Co., 15 killed.


The major mine accidents in Colorado which resulted in a large number of fatalities at one time were caused by gas and dust explosions in underground coal mines. However there also were a large number of fatalities which resulted from accidents involving one or two people, Based upon the 1934 to 1938 time period, the leading cause of these small accidents in decreasing order of frequency are listed below.

Causes Underground:

  1. Falls of roof (rock, coal or draw slate) - the most common cause of fatalities
  2. Falls of face or rib
  3. Mine cars and mine locomotives
  4. Explosions of gas or coal dust
  5. Explosives (not including those in No. 4)
  6. Shaft and slope
  7. Electricity (not resulting in explosions)
  8. Suffocation from natural gases (not from mine fires and explosions)
  9. Mine fires (burns, suffocations, etc.)
  10. Roof fall due to car or machine knocking out post
  11. Rush of coal, rock, or gob
  12. Other falling material or objects (not being handled by injured worker)
  13. Falls of persons
  14. Hand tools
  15. Handling materials
  16. Stepping on nails or other sharp objects

Causes Surface (including tipple, breaker, shops & yards):

  1. Explosives - the most common cause of fatalities
  2. Mine cars and mine locomotives
  3. Railway cars and locomotives
  4. Electricity (shock or burns)
  5. Machinery on surface
  6. Falling objects
  7. Falls of persons
  8. Handling materials
  9. Hand tools
  10. Boiler explosions or bursting steam pipes


In 1920, a poll was taken to determine the nationality of the 12,799 men employed in and about coal mines in Colorado. The results of this poll for the more common nationalities is as follows:

Nationality, No. of Men

American, 3651
Mexicans, 2325
Italians, 2292
Croats, 857
Greeks, 405
Slavonians, 369
Negroes, 258
Bulgarians, 245
English, 223
Austrian Germans, 221
Scotch, 210
Welsh, 192
Poles, 176
Germans, 153
French, 148
Spaniards, 122
Russians, 116
Irish, 104
Hungarians, 93
Serbians, 72
Bohemians, 63
Swedes, 63
Finlanders, 54
Rumanians, 38
Japanese, 18
Montenegrins, 18
Belgians, 16


In 1984 a survey was conducted to determine which counties had major coal and precious metal mining activities. A summary is listed below.

Name of County; 1984 Mining Activity

Archuleta; coal
Boulder; gold, silver, lead, copper
Clear Creek; gold, molybdenum, silver, copper, lead
Custer; perlite
Delta; coal
Eagle; gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc
El Paso; coal
Fremont; perlite, coal, uranium
Garfield; coal
Gilpin; gold, silver, copper, lead
Gunnison; coal, molybdenum
Huerfano; coal
Jackson; coal
Jefferson; uranium
Lake; gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum, tungsten
LaPlata; coal, silver, lead
Las Animas; coal
Mesa; uranium, vanadium, coal
Mineral; silver, lead, copper
Moffat; uranium, coal
Montrose; uranium, vanadium, coal
Park; gold, silver, lead, uranium
Pitkin; coal, iron
Rio Blanco; coal
Routt; volcanic scoria, coal
Saguache; uranium
San Juan; gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc
San Miguel; uranium, vanadium, coal, gold, silver
Teller; gold


In the Bibliography list below are given libraries which possess the annual reports. Often more detailed information on the accidents listed is given in these references. In the fatality lists the first three letters of a county's name was used for the county abbreviation except for the following counties:

MOZ - Montezuma
RIB - Rio Blanco
RIG - Rio Grande
SAJ - San Juan
SAM - San Miguel

In addition BD. means buried.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Annual Reports of the State Inspector of Coal Mines, Dept. of Natural Resources, State of Colorado, 1884 - 1962. (Arthur Lakes Library - Colorado School of Mines, TN805.C6, A2) (Colorado State Archives) (Denver Public Library - Western History Upper, C622.33, C719re) (U.S. Geological Survey Library-Denver, 402(271), C719)

Annual Reports for the Bureau of Mines of the State of Colorado, 1895 & 1896 & 1919 through 1962 (No publications 1925, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1944, 1945, and 1948). (Arthur Lakes Library - Colorado School of Mines, TN24.06, A2) (Colorado State Archives) (Denver Public Library - Business Documents, CD Mil.1: 1896- 1932, CD Con. 3.1: 1933 - 1962) (U.S. Geological Survey Library - Denver, 402 (271), C72)

Card Index File, "Mine Accidents", Stephen Hart Library, Colorado Historical Society - Denver

"Index to Accidents May 12, 1895 to May 31, 1900", Colorado Dept. of Natural Resources, Bureau of Mines, Colorado State Archives (Basis of data for annual reports for Bureau of Mines)

Raymond, R.W., A Glossary of Mining and Metallurgical Terms (1881)


Information which may be given for each entry which follows is the name of the person killed, their occupation, nationality, age at death, martial status (S = single, M = married, W = widow), number of surviving children, years of mining experience, county in which the accident occurred, company's name, mine name, date died, cause of the accident, and other comments.