Danhauser (1926) and Wankie (1972) - Two Mining Disasters Some Safety Implications in Historical Perspective.

Ruth Edgecombe


Explosions of methane gas and coal dust, separately or together, have killed thousands of miners in coal mines throughout the world. While fatalities from other causes, such as falls of roof are higher in aggregate, they tend to attract less attention than explosions, because fewer people are killed in each instance.' In Contrast, hundreds of men can die in one single explosion, as the disaster at Hankeiko in Manchuria in 1942 showed, when 1500 miners were killed. This is the worst coal dust explosion on record. Both the pressure of public opinion, and the requirements of large scale mining, put a premium on precautions against explosions, demanding, as G.S. Rice has put it, 'consideration even beyond that given falls of roof which kill far more men'. Paradoxically, then, the often great loss of life, and the horrible manner of death of victims of colliery explosions, might be seen as part of a progressive, yet never-ending struggle to secure greater safety in mines, because such disasters invariably result in intensive investigations, remedial action in the form of more stringent regulations governing mining operations, and scientific research to find solutions to specific problems. The explosions at the Durban Navigation No. 2 Colliery (DNC) near Dannhauser in northern Natal in 1926, and at Wankie No. 2 Colliery in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1972, which are among the worst disasters in the mining history of southern Africa, illustrate this process. Both began as methane gas explosions which extended to coal dust explosions, ripping through both mines, and killing almost all who were underground at those times

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