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District 1 - Coal Mine Safety and Health
History of Anthracite Coal Mining

Time Line
250,000,000 BC to 400,000,000 BC
(but who's counting)
Birth of anthracite. Material was deposited that eventually transforms to anthracite coal. This occurred during the Carboniferous Geologic Period. At that time, most of Pennsylvania was a flat, hot, moist plain covered with steaming swamps thick with tall trees and wide spreading ferns.
1762 Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley discover the anthracite coal seams. The estimations are that 16 billion tons of coal lie within the anthracite seams in northeastern Pennsylvania. The recoverable (capable of being mined at this time) amount is classified at around 7 to 8 billion tons.
1768 First recorded use of anthracite coal
1775 Mining of anthracite starts in northeast Pennsylvania. The mine is located near Pittston.
1776-1780 Mining of anthracite starts in the Wilkes-Barre area. The mining is on outcrops (surface exposed anthracite coal), along the banks of the Susquehanna River.
1788 The first industrial use of anthracite. It was used in heating and drawing iron for the making of nails.
1790 Anthracite is discovered in the Schuylkill region of Pennsylvania.
1792 Anthracite is discovered in the Lehigh region of Pennsylvania.
1820 The first recorded anthracite coal company, the Lehigh Coal Mining Company, sends the first significant shipments of anthracite out of the coal field region.
1842 First documented mine strike. 2000 miners are affected.
09/06/1869 Avondale Mine Disaster - 108 men and boys killed during a fire at the mine. This is the largest mine disaster to ever occur in the anthracite mine region.
1869 Anthracite is first used in a forge in Fell's Tavern located in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
1869 The Pennsylvania Department of Mines is established.
1870 Industry records that close to 15 fatalities per million tons of coal occur. This fact, in conjunction with the Avondale mine disaster bring about the nation's first stringent mine safety laws.
late 1880s Bill Mitchell gains the trust and support of the various divergent local miner 'social' groups into what will become the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America.)
09/17/1890 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) miners union issues a strike call to it's 9000 members. Within one week, 125,000 hard-coal coal miners were off their jobs and 96% of coal mine production ceased.
1900 The historical total fatality count in anthracite mines tops 13,000 men, women and children.
1914 Employment at anthracite mines reaches a maximum of 180,000 workers.
1917 Anthracite coal production peaks at over 100 million tons.
1931 With stringent laws in place and state mine inspections, the number of fatalities per million tons of coal drops to 6.5.
1950 Anthracite coal mine production steadily declines from its peak of 100 million tons in 1917 to 46 million tons in 1950. Thirty five percent of the coal being mined comes from surface facilities or the reprocessing of culm banks. The fatality rate drops to 1.86 fatalities per million tons of coal mined.
1959 Knox mine coal disaster - Port Griffith, PA (near Pittston). The Susquehanna River breaches (or breaks through) the mine workings, permanently flooding the majority of the interconnected underground mines in the Wilkes-Barre area. Although production of coal was in constant decline in the area since its peak in 1917, this disaster is referred to as the event which ended deep coal mining in the northern anthracite fields of Pennsylvania. Additional information on this disaster is available in the historical list of fatalities.

River Breaches the Mine
Efforts to Control River Inundation
1969 The Federal 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is passed by Congress and an agency, now known as the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is created.
1970 Anthracite coal mine production continues it steady fall to 9.2 million tons. There are 0.43 fatalities per million tons of coal mined.
1976 Anthracite coal production continues to shift from deep mining to surface mines and the reworking/recycling of culm banks and refuse piles. Several cogeneration plants are constructed. These plants are designed to burn culm bank and mine refuse material.
1987 Production of anthracite coal drops to 5.2 million tons, of which only 615,000 tons come from the 98 deep mines in the region which employ 620 deep miners. Deep anthracite coal mining accounts for only 11.8% of coal produced.
1987 The total recorded number of individuals that have died at mining operations over the years since anthracite mining has occurred reaches 31,088.

Battery A structure erected of timbers, plank and a drawhole to hold back loose coal in a box and control the loading of coal by gravity feed.
Breast A working place or chamber driven up the pitch. Same as room.
Chute An inclined connection driven in coal or rock from the gangway to the return or monkey airway for the purpose of travel, ventilation and coal loading.
Coal (anthracite) A black solid, combustible substance formed by the partial decomposition of vegetation without free access of air but under the influence of moisture and increased pressure and high temperature. It is not a rock, but rather the fossil remains of vegetable/plant matter sealed between layers of rock. It contains a high percentage of carbon (86% average) which burns or combusts and of low volatile matter (4.3% average). This means anthracite is difficult to ignite but once it gets going will burn longer and slower than any other type of coal.
Disaster An event that has occurred at a mine which involve five or more fatalities. 119 mine disasters have occurred.
Gangway A main entry on haulageway.
Gob The breast area formed by props and liners and allowed to fill with blasted coal. Not to be confused with mined but on caved areas.
Liner Boards or planks used to extend the box and manways of breasts in pitching seams.
Monkey Airway The return air course driven parallel with and above the gangway.

Anthracite Coal Mines