Mining Publication: A Centennial of Mine Explosion Prevention Research
A mere 100 years ago the mining industry, scientific investigators, and a concerned public struggled with the notion that coal dust could lead to mine explosions. A succession of disasters in 1907 left the U.S. mining industry desperately seeking answers. The pioneering work of Taffanel in France and Rice in the U.S. convinced the mining industry of the dangers of coal dust. By 1911, the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) was conducting full-scale studies of mine explosions at the experimental mine at Bruceton, Pennsylvania. While this work has dramatically improved mine safety since the early days, methane and coal dust remains a threat for miners even now. This paper provides a brief historical overview of full-scale mine explosion research conducted primarily at the USBM, now the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The paper will evaluate the factors common to explosion disasters over the last century and identify some of the new safety challenges created by modern mining methods. This report reviews the Federal Mine Health and Safety Acts that have been passed over the last century and discusses how explosion research and enforcement of safety regulations have led to a significant reduction in the number of fatalities and disasters.