Farmington Mine disaster

Farmington Mine disaster

The Farmington Mine disaster was an explosion that happened at approximately 5:30 a.m. on November 20, 1968, at the Consol No. 9 coal mine near Farmington, West Virginia, USA. The explosion tore a large hole in the mine, and was large enough to be felt in Fairmont, almost twelve miles away. At the time, 99 miners were inside. Over the course of the next few hours, 21 miners were able to escape the mine, but 78 were still trapped. All who were unable to escape perished; the bodies of nineteen of the dead were never recovered. The cause of the explosion was never determined, but the accident served as the catalyst for several new laws that were passed to protect miners.


The overnight shift began around midnight with the typical humor and horseplay among the workers before they went underground.

At 5:30 a.m on November 20, an explosion shook the mine. It was so strong that a motel clerk reported feeling vibrations 12 miles away. Miners living in the area heard the noise and, knowing what it meant, headed to the mine, where they discovered a rapidly-spreading fire with flames shooting 150 feet into the air. Within hours, 21 miners made it to the surface but 78 were still trapped underground.

The fires continued to burn for over a week, and on November 29, rescuers finally admitted defeat after air samples from drill holes showed air unable to sustain human life. The mine was sealed on November 30 with concrete to starve the fire of oxygen.

In September 1969, the mine was unsealed in an attempt to recover the miners' bodies. Progress was slow because workers discovered cave-ins that they had to tunnel around. This recovery effort continued for almost ten years. By April 1978, 59 of the 78 bodies had been recovered. Unable to recover the other 19, the mine was permanently sealed.

The actual cause of the blast and fire was never determined. However, several contributing factors were found that may have caused the blast: inadequate ventilation, inadequate control of explosive methane gas and coal dust, and inadequate testing for methane.


The Farmington disaster was a catalyst for the passage of major changes in the U.S. mining safety laws. One month after the Farmington disaster the U.S. Department of the Interior held a conference on mine safety. Stewart Udall's opening speech specifically referenced Farmington and concluded, "let me assure you, the people of this country no longer will accept the disgraceful health and safety record that has characterized this major industry."

As a result of the Farmington disaster, the United States Congress passed the 1969 Coal Mine Safety and Health Act which strengthened safety standards, increased Federal mine inspections, and gave coal miners specific safety and health rights.


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