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In England, The Oaks explosion remains the worst mining accident, claiming 388 lives on 12 December 1866 near Barnsley in Yorkshire. The Hulton Colliery explosion at Westhoughton, Lancashire, in 1910 claimed the lives of 344 miners. An explosion in 1878, at the Wood Pit, Haydock, Lancashire, killed over 200 workers, although only 189 were included in the 'official list'. Another disaster that killed many miners was the Hartley Colliery Disaster, which occurred in January 1862 when the beam of the main steam winding engine broke suddenly and fell into the single shaft serving the pit. It blocked the shaft, and entombed hundreds of miners. The final death toll was 204, most of whom were suffocated by the lack of oxygen in the mine atmosphere.
In the metalliferous mines of Cornwall, some of the worst accidents were at East Wheal Rose in 1846, where 39 workers were killed by a sudden flood; at Levant mine in 1919, where 31 were killed and many injured in a failure of the man engine; 12 killed at Wheal Agar in 1883 when a cage fell down a shaft; and seven killed at Dolcoath mine in 1893 when a large stull collapsed.
The worst mining accident in Scotland is the 1877 Blantyre mining disaster in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, which claimed 207 lives. For several tense days in September 1950, another worst accident happened on the small Ayrshire mining village. The world paused with bated breath as rescuers battled bravely against all odds to reach the 129 men trapped deep underground when a field above where they were working caved-in, flooding the mine workings with thick liquid peat, cutting off all means of escape.
Crowd gathering at the pit head of the Senghenydd Colliery after the explosion in October 1913
During the period 1850 to 1930 the South Wales coalfield had the worst disaster record. This was due to the increasing number of mines being sunk to greater depths into gas-containing strata, combined with poor safety and management practices. As a result there were nearly forty underground explosions in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire areas of the coalfield during this time. Each accident resulted in the deaths of twenty or more workers - either directly in the explosion or by suffocation by the poisonous gases formed. The total death toll from these disasters was 3,119 people. The four worst accidents in Wales were:
439 deaths at the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster at Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion in 1913.
290 deaths at the Albion Colliery in Cilfynydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion on 25 June 1894.
272 deaths at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn, Monmouthshire, in an explosion of 11 September 1878.
266 deaths in the Gresford Disaster near Wrexham in North Wales on 22 September 1934.
Some collieries, e.g. Morfa Colliery near Port Talbot, Glamorgan, and Black Vein Colliery, Risca, Monmouthshire, suffered three disasters before they were closed for being unsafe.
The Monongah Mining Disaster was the worst mining accident of American history; 362 workers were killed in an underground explosion on December 6, 1907 in Monongah, West Virginia.
From 1880 to 1910, mine accidents claimed thousands of fatalities. Where annual mining deaths had numbered more than 1,000 a year during the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 500 during the late 1950s, and to 93 during the 1990s. In addition to deaths, many thousands more are injured (an average of 21,351 injuries per year between 1991 and 1999), but overall there has been a downward trend of deaths and injuries.
In 1959, the Knox Mine Disaster occurred in Port Griffith, Pennsylvania. The swelling Susquehanna river collapsed into a mine under it and resulted in 12 deaths. In Plymouth, Pennsylvania, the Avondale Mine Disaster of 1869 resulted in the deaths of 108 miners and two rescue workers after a fire in the only shaft eliminated the oxygen in the mine. Federal laws for mining safety resulted from this disaster. Pennsylvania suffered another disaster in 2002 at Quecreek, 9 miners were trapped underground and subsequently rescued after 78 hours. During 2006, 72 miners lost their lives at work, 47 by coal mining. The majority of these fatalities occurred in Kentucky and West Virginia, including the Sago Mine Disaster. On April 5, 2010, in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster an underground explosion caused the deaths of 29 miners.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines was created in 1910 to investigate accidents, advise industry, conduct production and safety research, and teach courses in accident prevention, first aid, and mine rescue. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts of 1969 and 1977 set further safety standards for the mining.