Mid-Continent Resources, Inc.
Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine Explosion
Redstone, Colorado April 15, 1981 No. Killed - 15
At approximately 4:08 p.m., April 15, 1981, a methane and coal dust explosion occurred in the 102 longwall development section of Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine located near Redstone, Colorado.
Fifteen miners died as a result. Nine of the victims were working in the 102 section and six were working in the Slope section. Six miners working in other areas of the mine at the time of the explosion survived. Three were injured and were rescued; the other three were not injured and escaped unassisted to the surface.
MSHA investigators concluded that an outburst occurred at the face of the No. 1 entry on the 102 section that released large amounts of methane and coal dust. This was caused by extensive stresses exerted on the coalbed and face by the massive overburden and other geological conditions in the mine. The outburst created an explosive atmosphere.
The explosion occurred when this atmosphere accmulated around a continuous mining machine and Integrated into an explosion-proof compartment that housed a light switch and light switch control. This was possible because the compartment was not maintained in a permissible condition. The cover was not properly installed because it had been closed upon a piece of wire left in a flange joint, resulting in a gap exceeding 0.038 cm (0.015 in). This gap permitted the explosive atmosphere to migrate into the compartment where it was ignited by the operation of the switch.
Flame and burning material within the compartment escaped via the gap and ignited the explosive atmosphere in the face area of the 102 section of the No. 1 entry.
Flame and major forces of the explosion propagated from the face area of the 102 section, and split in the main slope entries at the mouth of the 102 section. Flame and forces traveled inby in Nos. 7, 6, and 5 entries of the slopes to the Slope section, and then moved outby in the slope entries. The flame extended as far as the No. 56 crosscut, and the major forces traveled further outby to the No. 48 crosscut.
Conditions and practices that contributed to the explosion include:
Improper installation of the lighting system on the mining machine that did not deenergize when the methane monitor exceeded 2.0 percent.
Wiring of the light switch and installation of the cover of the explosion-proof compartment by an unqualified person.
Failure to test the flame path under the cover of the explosion-proof compartment to ascertain that it was in permissible condition after the cover was installed.
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II