KEY POINTS

  • The tragedy motivated Americans to lobby for more robust federal safety rules regarding mining
  • Today, miners continue to work in hazardous conditions
  • Modern electrical equipment and safety gears are still inaccessible to many miners

The worst mining accident in the history of America took place in Monogah, West Virginia, on Dec. 6, 1907. To honor the miners who died on that tragic day, the U.S. Congress proclaimed Dec. 6 as National Miners Day.

Let us take a step back and find out how the tragic incident unfolded that day, based on a Dec. 7, 1907 report from The Fairmont Times.

  • There were 425 men who went to work that day.
  • The deadly explosion took place at 10:20 a.m.
  • A total of 362 miners died from the explosion. Doubts remained regarding the actual count because of poor record-keeping at the time.
  • The explosion destroyed the Fairmont Coal Company's No. 6 and 8 mines. The blast hit No. 8 mine gravely and its roof flew hundreds of yards away.
  • A day after the explosion, physicians waited outside the mines and attempted to save anyone who was trapped inside. However, the incident was extremely tragic that their presence was no longer needed.
  • Everyone inside the mine was taken by surprise. Many died on the spot as they went about their work. 
  • One miner was found burnt but still sitting on a bench. Another miner was almost blown to pieces but his pocket watch was still working. 
  • There were four miners who tried to escape. They reached the opening of the mine but ran out of oxygen. One of them was found lying face down in muddy water. Beside him was another miner who was lucky enough to be rescued but unfortunately, he died at a hospital.  
  • The cause of the explosion remains unknown to this day. Although some reports stated that it was because of methane gas that got in contact with highly flammable coal, authorities could not form any conclusion about what triggered the blast.

Because of the tragedy, Americans started lobbying for more robust federal safety rules for mining companies. The lobbying had its first success in 1910 when the government established the Bureau of Mines. In 2009, December 6th was proclaimed as National Miners Day.

Today, miners continue to work in hazardous conditions. Every day, they still work in constricted spaces. Modern electrical equipment and safety gears are already available in the market, but they remain inaccessible to many miners.

The next time you switch the lights on or use your cookware, think about the miners who work hard to make your daily life convenient. 

Rescue efforts continue to find any survivors of the mining disaster Rescue efforts continue to find any survivors of the mining disaster Photo: AFP / STRINGER