With the recent tragic mining disaster fresh in the public mind, there comes the official announcement from Secretary Garfield of the Interior Department that the number of these accidents, caused directly or indirectly by mine explosions, has been steadily increasing. In speaking of the causes and prevention of these disasters, their increase is attributed in part to the lack of proper and enforcible mine regulations; to ignorance of the explosives and the proper conditions of their use in the presence of gas and dust; and to the fact that not only is the number of miners increasing, but the coal is being taken from greater depths or farther from the entrance, in locations where ventilation becomes increasingly difficult, and the liability to accumulations of explosive gas more pronounced. As usual in these investigations affecting the safety of life and limb, the fact is brought out that the loss of life is far greater in America than in Europe. There are killed annually in the coal mines of the United States three times as many men per thousand as there are in the coal mines of most European countries. During the last seventeen years, 22,840 men have lost their lives in our mines, and 11,000 of these deaths have occurred during the past six years. During the year 1906, no less than 6,861 men were killed or injured in the mines, 2,061 of these being killed outright, and the injured amounting to 4,800. The terrible significance of these figures is enhanced when we learn from this government report that while the number of deaths per thousand has undergone in European countries a decided decrease, in this country it is steadily increasing. The improved conditions abroad are due to judicious mining legislation for the safeguarding of the lives of the workmen, and this legislation has been the outcome of the work of government testing stations, established to study the problems involved in the use of high explosives, and to devise means for rendering mining in general less precarious.
This article was originally published with the title "Enormous Death Roll among the Miners" in Scientific American 97, 26, 470 (December 1907)