Farmington Mine Disaster remembered 51 years later

FARMINGTON, WV (WOAY) – On November 20, 1968, a catastrophic explosion rocked the Consol No. 9 coal mine outside of Farmington, West Virginia.  Seventy-eight miners perished in that accident. While the cause of the explosion was never determined, it served as a catalyst for a series of landmark mine safety laws that were passed to protect miners.

In 1969, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act mandated regular inspections of coal mines and fines for all violations found. Eight years later, in 1977, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act strengthened and expanded rights for miners, required mine rescue teams to be established, and created the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In 1968, 311 coal miners lost their lives in work-related accidents. Another 182 miners were killed in metal and nonmetal mining accidents. And annual mining fatalities continued to be measured in the hundreds for more than a decade.

Mine safety has improved significantly since then, not only because of the laws and regulations that were passed, but also because of the efforts of industry and changing mining practices. These days, total mine fatalities are measured in the low double digits.

MSHA recognizes that, in spite of these improvements, a single preventable mining death is one too many.  Thus, the agency investigates each fatality thoroughly to determine root causes and use the lessons learned to prevent future tragedies.

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Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin released the following information about the incident:

“Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued the following statement honoring the 78 miners who were killed in the Consolidation Coal Company’s No. 9 Mine Tragedy 51 years ago in Farmington, West Virginia.

‘Today we honor the 78 brave miners who were lost in the Consolidation Coal Company’s No. 9 mine tragedy. It was November 1968 when Farmington No. 9 exploded. My uncle, neighbor and several high school classmates were in the mine at the time of the explosion. For days everyone I had ever known sat around the company store waiting for updates about the fate of our loved ones. The look on my mother’s face when she found out her younger brother lost his life in that mine will stay with me forever.

“Fifty-one years later, we continue to grieve, remember those we lost and pray for their families. I have always said that even one life lost while on the job is one too many. It is simply not acceptable to me that any of our miners fail to return home to family and loved ones at the end of a shift. Since my time as Governor, I have been dedicated to improving safety conditions in our mines, so that tragedies like these and others, never happen again. I hope today that every West Virginian will remember the 78 miners that died that day and pray for their families.”’

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