Mining is a more important part of our lives than most people realize. If you’ve ever entered a building, driven on a road, turned on a light, used a computer, or made a phone call, then mining has had an impact on you. Mining aims to provide the resources for a better future!
This guide looks at the most catastrophic mining disasters in the United States dating back to 1960.
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- Saunders, WV | Buffalo Mining Co. | 1972 | Deaths: 114 | Cause: Dam failure
- Kellogg, ID | Sunshine Mining Company | 1972 | Deaths: 91 | Cause: Fire
- Farmington, WV | Consol No. 9 | 1968 | Deaths: 78 | Cause: Explosion
- Hyden, KY | Finley Coal No. 15 & 16 | 1970 | Deaths: 38 | Cause: Explosion
- Carmichaels, PA | Robena No. 3 | 1962 | Deaths: 37 | Cause: Explosion
- Montcoal, WV | Upper Big Branch Mine-South | 2010 | Deaths: 29 | Cause: Explosion
- Orangeville, UT | Wilberg Mine | 1984 | Deaths: 27 | Cause: Fire
- Terre Haute, IN | Viking Mike | 1961 | Deaths: 22 | Cause: Explosion
- Franklin, LA | Belle Isle Mine | 1968 | Deaths: 21 | Cause: Fire
- Pine Creek, WV | No. 22 | 1960 | Deaths: 18 | Cause: Fire
Here’s more information on the biggest mining catastrophes of the past five decades in the United States:
- The deadliest mining disaster of the past 50 years occurred in Saunders, West Virginia. A dam failure on Feb. 26, 1972 resulted in 114 deaths.
- Of all of the mining disasters since 1960, the most have happened in West Virginia (29.27%) and Kentucky (19.51%).
- Over the past 50 years, the most common types of mining catastrophes have been explosions (63.41%) and fires (12.20%).
- The worst coal mining disaster in the history of the United States happened on Dec. 6, 1907. An explosion in Monongah Mines No. 6 and 8 in Monongah, West Virginia, claimed the lives of 362 miners.
From the National Mining Association, here are some fascinating facts about the mining industry as of 2020:
- Each year, more than 15,000 miners are killed worldwide.
- The average salary of an American miner is $80,000+, which is 40.36% more than the United States average of $57,000.
- Every American uses an average of 40,000 pounds of newly mined materials every year, which includes two tons of coal.
- The mining industry provides 537,000 jobs in America.
- The annual U.S. revenue generated through mining is $111 billion.
- There are 1,026,000 indirect jobs generated by the mining industry.
- According to the World Bank, the demand for minerals needed for future energy technologies is expected to increase by 1,000%.
Some of the minerals mined can be dangerous as well. Talc, commonly made into talcum powder, has been linked to ovarian cancer, and certain brands of talc-based baby powder are being pulled from shelves.
As technology has advanced, the number of catastrophic mining disasters (along with the number of deaths) has fortunately decreased over the past handful of decades. Prior to 1960, the death counts for the deadliest mining disasters were much higher than anything we’ve seen over the past 50 years in America. For instance, on March 10, 1906, in Courrières, France, a dust explosion caused Europe’s worst mining disaster to date, killing 1,099 people and injuring hundreds more. Despite toxic gas and smoke being detected days prior to the incident, the company refused to halt production and take a closer look at the issue.