One of the most costly and deadly coal mining disasters in the history of the world occurred in West Virginia. The Monongah Coal Mine Disaster occurred in December 1907 and is still counted as the largest mining-related disaster in the U.S. Reportedly, the disaster claimed 362 lives.
The Monongah coal accident began with explosions in two mines at the location. The explosions were traced to either open lights or electric arcs. The immediate explosion killed and injured many miners, but the gas and dust in the air killed even more. According to reports, ventilation systems were destroyed by the explosions and rescue workers were only able to spend a few minutes at a time in the mine. The rescue workers did not have breathing equipment at the time and some of them died of suffocation because of this.
Some of the other historic coal mining accidents occurred in other countries across the globe. China, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and South Africa have all seen horrific accidents that killed hundreds of miners. In 1942, the Benzihu colliery in China experienced an explosion underground. Mining managers closed ventilation to prevent fire from spreading and put up fencing to keep relatives from seeking their loved ones in the mine. According to reports, 1,549 people died.
Luckily, today's coal miners -- especially those in the United States -- do deal with safer work conditions than those in past centuries. Certainly no coal mine operation would fence in miners who were suffering in a collapsed mine. Unfortunately, coal mining is still a dangerous occupation. Today's miners do have some expectations of safety and a legal right to seek compensation when injuries occur on the job.
Source: Mining-Technology.com, "The world's worst coal mining disasters," accessed Sep. 06, 2015