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Lessons learned from Queensland’s worst mining disaster

coal, mine, coal mining

The 2024 Miners Memorial Day Service will be held during September in Collinsville, Queensland, on the anniversary of Australia’s second worst mining disaster.

Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ) hosts the service once a year to commemorate the lives of miners lost in mining tragedies in Queensland. Each year, the service falls on the anniversary of the Mount Mulligan coal mine disaster of 1921, which claimed the lives of 75 miners.

RSHQ has announced that this year’s memorial will take place in Collinsville, and that invitations and registration will be arranged shortly.

On 19 September 1921, an explosion took place at the Mount Mulligan coal mine in Queensland around 170km from Cairns.

The explosion claimed the lives of 75 miners, with the final body recovered five months after the disaster.

That a coal dust explosion had occurred was beyond doubt, but even a subsequent Royal Commission failed to identify a precise cause.

Based on the findings, one possible version of events is that an explosive was fired accidentally or intentionally on top of a block of machine cut coal, which triggered the disaster. Dust levels were also extremely high at the time, which combusted in the explosion.

Though a tragedy, the Mount Mulligan disaster paved the way for significant changes to the mining industry in Queensland with the introduction of the Coal Mining Act 1925.

The legislation introduced several standards still used today, such as the compulsory use of safety lamps, rules for the volume of permitted stone dust, rules governing explosives and their use in coal mines, the banning of naked flames in underground mines, the establishment of mines rescue stations in mining districts, rules for the use of ventilation in underground mines, and the appointment of mines inspectors with practical experience.

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