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The term "mine disaster" historically has been applied to mine accidents claiming five or more lives. Mine disasters, in this sense, once were appallingly common. For instance, the single year of 1907 saw 18 coal mine disasters, plus two more disasters in the metal and nonmetal mining industry. Among the disasters in 1907 was history's worst--the Monongah coal mine explosion, which claimed 362 lives and impelled Congress to created the Bureau of Mines.

Mine accidents have declined dramatically in number and severity through decades of research, technology, and preventive programs. Today, mine accidents resulting in five or more deaths are no longer common. However, preventing recurrence of disasters like those of the past remains a top priority requiring constant vigilance by management, labor, and government.

Statistical Summary

Number of Documented Mine Disasters
(5 or more deaths)

Historic Period Coal Mines Metal and Nonmetal Mines Total
Through 1875 19 4 23
1876-1900 101 17 118
1901-1925 305 51 356
1926-1950 147 23 170
1951-1975 35 9 44
1976-present 18 1 18

Listing Of Selected Historic Mine Disasters
Coal Mines

All accidents with five or more fatalities, since 1970

2010 4/05 Upper Big Branch Mine-South, Performance Coal Company Raleigh County, Montcoal, West Virginia Ignition or Explosion of Gas or Dust 29
2007 8/06 Crandall Canyon Mine, Genwal Resources Inc. Emery County, Huntington, Utah Fall of Face or Rib 6
2006 5/20 Darby Mine No. 1, Kentucky Darby LLC Harlan County, Middlesboro, Kentucky Explosion 5
2006 1/02 Sago Mine, Anker West Virginia Mining Company Inc. Upshur County, Buckhannon, West Virginia Explosion 12
2001 9/23 No. 5 Mine, Jim Walter Resources, Inc. Tuscaloosa County, Brookwood, Alabama Explosion 13
1992 12/07 No. 3 Mine, Southmoutain Coal Co. Wise Co., Norton, Virginia Explosion 8
1989 9/13 William Station No. 9 Mine, Pyro Mining Co. Union Co., Wheatcroft, Kentucky Explosion 10
1986 2/06 Loveridge No. 22, Consolidation Coal Co. Marion Co., Fairview, West Virginia Suffocation (surface stockpile) 5
1984 12/19 Wilberg Mine, Emery Mining Corp. Emery Co., Orangeville, Utah Fire 27
1983 06/21 McClure No. 1 Mine, Clinchfield Coal Co. Dickinson Co., McClure, Virginia Explosion 7
1982 1/20 No. 1 Mine, RFH Coal Co. Floyd Co., Craynor, Kentucky Explosion 7
1981 12/08 No. 21 Mine, Grundy Mining Co. Marion Co., Whitwell, Tennessee Explosion 13
1981 12/07 No. 11 Mine, Adkins Coal Co. Knott Co., Kite, Kentucky Explosion 8
1981 4/15 Dutch Creek No. 1, Mid-Continent Resources, Inc. Pitkin Co., Redstone, Colorado Explosion 15
1980 11/07 Ferrell No. 17, Westmorland Coal Co. Boone Co., Uneeda, West Virginia Explosion 5
1978 4/04 Moss No.3 Portal A, Clinchfield Coal Co. Dickinson Co., Duty, Virginia Suffocation (oxygen deficient air) 5
1977 03/01 Porter Tunnel, Kocher Coal Co. Schuykill Co., Tower City, Pennsylvania Flood 9
1976 3/9-11 Scotia Mine, Blue Diamond Coal Co. Letcher Co., Oven Fork, Kentucky Explosion 26
1972 12/16 Itmann No. 3 Mine, Itmann Coal Co. Wyoming Co., Itmann, West Virginia Explosion 5
1972 07/22 Blacksville No. 1, Consolidation Coal Co. Monongalia Co., Blacksville, West Virginia Fire 9
1970 12/30 Nos. 15 and 16 Mines, Finley Coal Co. Leslie Co., Hyden, Kentucky Explosion 38

The six worst coal mine disasters, since 1940

1968 11/20 Consol No. 9 Farmington, West Virginia Explosion 78
1951 12/21 Orient No. 2 West Frankfort, Illinois Explosion 119
1947 3/25 Centralia No. 5 Centralia, Illinois Explosion 111
1943 3/16 Smith Mine Washoe, Montana Explosion 74
1940 3/16 Willow Grove No. 10 St. Clairsville, Ohio Explosion 72
1940 1/10 Pond Creek No. 1 Bartley, West Virginia Explosion 91

The three worst coal mine disasters in U.S. history

1913 10/22 Stag Canon No. 2 Dawson, New Mexico Explosion 263
1909 11/13 Cherry Mine Cherry, Illinois Fire 259
1907 12/06 Monongah Nos. 6 and 8 Monongah, West Virginia Explosion 362

Metal And Nonmetal (Non-Coal) Mines

All accidents with five or more fatalities, since 1970

1979 06/08 Belle Isle Mine, Cargill, Inc. (salt) St. Mary Parish, Franklin, Louisiana Explosion 5
1972 05/02 Sunshine Mine, Sushine Mining Co. (silver) Shoshone Co., Kellogg, Idaho Fire 91
1971 04/12 Barnett Complex, Ozark-Mahoning Co. (fluorspar) Pope Co., Rosiclair, Illinois Hydrogen sulfide gas 7

The five worst metal and nonmetal mine disasters, since 1940

1972 05/02 Sunshine Mine (silver) Kellogg, Idaho Fire 91
1968 03/06 Belle Isle Mine (salt) Franklin, Louisiana Fire 21
1963 08/28 Cane Creek Mine (potash) Moab, Utah Explosion 18
1943 01/05 Boyd Mine (copper) Ducktown, Tennessee Explosion 9
1942 03/26 Sandts Eddy Quarry (limestone) Allentown, Pennsylvania Explosion (surface) 31

The three worst metal and nonmetal mine disasters in U.S. history

1972 05/02 Sunshine Mine (silver) Kellogg, Idaho Fire 91
1926 11/03 Barnes Hecker Mine (iron) Ishpeming, Michigan Flood 51
1917 06/08 Granite Mountain Shaft (copper) Butte, Montana Fire 163



Individual Bureau of Mines, MESA, and MSHA accident investigation reports.

Historic Accidents

Coal Mines: Bureau of Mines Bulletin 586, "Historical Summary of Coal-Mine Explosions in the United States, 1810-1958" (1960). Bureau of Mines Bulletin 616, "Historical Documentation of Major Coal-Mine Disasters in the United States Not Classified As Explosions of Gas or Dust: 1846-1962" (1963). Bureau of Mines Information Circular 8909, "Historical Summary of Coal Mine Explosions in the United States, 1959-81" (1983). "Coal Accidents That Resulted in 5 or More Fatalities Mine From 1957 Through January 1982," listing informally maintained by staff, Office of Information and Public Affairs.

Metal/Nonmetal Mines: Bureau of Mines IC 7493, "Major Disasters at Metal and Nonmetal Mines and Quarries in the United States (Excluding Coal Mines)" (1949). "List of accidents at metal and nonmetal mines and quarries (except coal mines) in the United States in which five or more lives were lost," update of Table 1 from the preceding publication, informally maintained by staff, Program Education and Outreach Services.