Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 17, 1911 Jan; :1-70
Of the common causes of the larger mine accidents, such as falls of roof and coal, gas and dust explosions, mine fires, and the misuse of explosives, all of which are often closely related, each must be studied and fought in a manner peculiar to itself. The last mentioned, the misuse of black powder and other explosives, is sometimes considered the least important of these causes of mine accidents; but its importance is much greater than the statistics indicate, for the reason that the misuse of explosives is the true cause of many of the fatal mine fires, gas or dust explosions, and falls of roof that are credited to other causes. Both the quantity of explosives used and the number of purposes to which they are applied are increasing. They are now made at about 150 plants, in different parts of the United States, and the product of a single year is estimated at nearly 500,000,000 pounds. Nothing in all this material is a safe or "safety" explosive when in the hands of a careless or ignorant person; and this is true whether considered in connection with the shipment or the use of these explosives. In addition to the large losses of life and property resulting from an improper use of explosives in mining, the recent statistics of the railway bureau for the safe transportation of explosives have shown more than 400 persons killed or injured and over $3,000,000 worth of property destroyed by explosives in transit by rail. The fact that three years of cooperative effort under the wise supervision of this bureau has reduced these losses to almost nothing encourages the hope that similar cooperative effort may likewise greatly lessen losses of life and property from the use of explosives in mining. The additions to the large death roll of our mines make a recurring appeal to the public for fair treatment of the coal-mining industry, and to the miner and the manager that they join in every possible effort for greater safety. It may never be possible under conditions such as exist to-day to prevent mine accidents entirely. Little can be accomplished in that direction by either the operators or the miners working alone, but experience in all countries shows that through the hearty determined cooperation of both the accidents may be greatly reduced. This will require wise laws and regulations based on fact and experience, and the strictest possible discipline. The accidents resulting from the improper use of explosives in mining can be most certainly prevented (1) through the use of the best and safest explosives; (2) through the handling and firing of these explosives in the safest manner by carefully selected and trained men; and (3) through the strict and competent oversight of these men. This little book on explosives is published in the hope that it may aid in preventing such accidents. The aim has been to tell what explosives are and how they should be handled, with a view to greater safety; and to do this in language free of unnecessary technicalities. It has been prepared by Charles E. Munroe, consulting chemist, and Clarence Hall, explosives engineer of the Bureau of Mines. It has been revised in the light of suggestions made by the mining engineers associated with the bureau, by several mine managers, by experts associated with the manufacture of explosives, and by Col. B. W. Dunn, chief of the bureau for the safe transportation of explosives, who has also kindly added a brief chapter on the transportation of explosives. Much of the information in this primer has been obtained from experiments conducted by the technologic branch of the United States Geological Survey at the mining experiment station at Pittsburg, Pa. This station, which is now part of the Bureau of Mines, was authorized for conducting investigations as to the "causes of mine explosions." These investigations have shown the recent development of a new type of short-flame explosives, which can be used with greater safety than black powder in mines where there is dangerous gas or inflammable dust, because the flame from the explosion of black powder lasts from 2,500 to 3,500 times as long as does the flame from these newer explosives, and is therefore more likely to ignite the gas or dust in such mines.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 17