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Mining Accident and Disasters
Monongah Mine Explosions

Fairmont Coal Company
Monongah Nos. 6 and 8 Mines
Monongah, West Virginia
December 6, 1907 - 362 killed



Monongah
The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster, the Worst Industrial Accident in US History
by Davitt McAteer


See also how to purchase the DVD, Monongah 1907

(From report by Frank Haas, 1908, unpublished, copy in Bureau of Mines files; also notes of Federal Geological Survey engineers (22, p. 6)

The No. 6 and No. 8 Mines were slope openings about 1¼ miles apart.  The mines were ventilated separately but were connected so that each mine could be ventilated from eith opening in case of necessity.

The workings were wired for electricity, and the coal was undercut by electric cutting machines.  Black powder was used for blasting; the tamping composed largely of coal dust.  No shot firers were employed.  Open lights were used by all workmen.

Traces of gas were found in the advance workings, and firebosses made daily examinations before the men entered.  The mines were dusty and haulways were dampened by water cars.

On that Friday morning, 367 men were in the mine and work progressed as usual until 10:28 a.m. when the explosion killed nearly all the men, wrecked the ventilation system, smashed motors and cars, and destroyed the No. 8 openings, together with the boilerhouse and fan, but did little damage to the No. 6 slope.

Four men escaped through an outcrop opening and 1 man was rescued.

Rescue crews restored ventilation by building brattices to conduct the air from No. 6 fan.  Three fires were found and extinguished with water.  All props and timbers were blown down, causing heavy falls of roof, except in one entry.

By December 12th, all workings had been ventilated, and searched and 337 bodies recovered.  In the next week 17 others were found, and 8 more were taken out in the work of removing the fallen rock and restoring the workings.

One of the dead was an insurance agent who had entered the mine to do business with the men.

About the time of the explosion, a trip of loaded cars had reached the knuckle of No. 6 slope, when part of the trip broke away and ran to the bottom of the slope, piling up and blocking the entry.

It is thought that the dust cloud resulting in the intake air current was ignited by an arc from electric wires torn down by the wreck or by open lights of men in the vicinity.

This opinion was accepted by some of the most expert of the investigators.  Separate investigations were made by parties of mine inspectors from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, representatives of the Fairmont Coal Company and the Federal Geological Survey, and by a Commission of European mine investigators who were in the United States at the request of Dr. Joseph A. Holmes to study the problem of coal mine explosions.

The evidence of the origin of this explosion was much confused, and some of the investigators attributed the explosion to blown-out shots, others to gas ignited by open lights, or to dust clouds ignited by electric arcs or open lights.

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