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Mining disasters have declined significantly since the industry started. Credit: MSHA.gov

Mining is one of the most dangerous occupations there is. Every year, hundreds of miners die in accidents from collapses, explosions, and fires. The good news is that mining accidents and the deaths associated with them have declined drastically in the past 40 years, and even more so in the past 100+ years. The bad news is that mines are still highly dangerous. According to the MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration), 1907 was the “deadliest year in U.S. coal mining history…when an estimated 3,242 deaths occurred.” In that year, 361 people were killed in the United States’ worst mine explosion ever, near Monongah, West Virginia. In May of this year, 301 miners were killed in Turkey’s largest mining explosion, which is especially alarming considering the upgraded mining health and safety regulations that have been established and improved upon since the 1970’s.

A “mining disaster” refers to a mining incident which kills 5 or more people.  From 1976 to present, fewer than 20 total mining disasters have occurred in the United States, compared with 526 mining disasters that occurred between 1901 and 1950.  Statistics from MSHA and other government agencies show that U.S. mining fatalities and accidents in general have declined significantly, but accidents still occur alarmingly frequently in other parts of the world.  China remains one of the deadliest mining countries, resulting in more than a thousand deaths last year, despite recent safety gains.  China also claims the deadliest mining disaster in the world’s history, having killed 1,549 miners in April, 1942.  But recent mining events are prevalent, too.  For example, Chile’s 2010 mining accident trapped 33 miners underground for 2 weeks (luckily, 31 of them survived).  Just two weeks ago, 5 miners died in a mine collapse in Bosnia, and in August, another 25 passed away in a rebel-held mine in the Central African Republic town of Bombari.  Several other mine accidents have occurred in the past decade, many of them this year.


 Corroded columns like these can mean disaster for a mine.

Corroded columns like these can mean disaster for a mine.

So is there anything that can be done to make the world’s mines safer?  As a matter of fact, there is.  At HJ3, we’ve helped improve the safety of several mines in the Southwest United States by strengthening their concrete and steel structures.  Many modern mine collapses are due to vibrations from large equipment, so strengthening their support systems can drastically reduce the risk of collapse from these vibrations.  Many of the world’s mines are over 100 years old, and the concrete beams and columns that support them have corroded due to the constant exposure to vibration, moisture, sulfuric acid, and the mines’ own elctrowinning processes.

A corroded column (left) is restored with HJ3's CarbonSeal system (right).
A corroded column (left) is restored with HJ3’s CarbonSeal system (right).

Some of the mines that HJ3 has reinforced were so badly degraded that they risked being shut down by MSHA.  With a layer of CarbonSeal™’s glass composite and carbon fiber fabrics, the columns and beams in these degraded mines have been restored, providing greater strength than the mines have seen in the past 100 years.  Since HJ3’s composite systems are 1o times stronger than steel and highly chemical-resistant, they’re ideal for reinforcing corroded structures that are exposed to harsh mining conditions.  And since the systems come as a lightweight, flexible fabric, they’re ideal for narrow or otherwise difficult-to-get-into spaces.
Do you know of a mine that could use some structural strengthening?  Join HJ3 in our quest to save lives and resources everywhere!  Contact us at info@hj3.com for more information.