The first ever recorded mining accident killed 23 people in 1872 and the most recent claimed 203 lives just a few years ago.
While there have been many mine disasters in history, the worst we have ever seen occurred in China in 1942. Then, the region was controlled by the Japanese and the Benxihu Colliery, which was located just north of Korea, was also under Japanese rule.
Though the mine was being operated by Japanese administration it was Chinese workers that were doing the labour work and the conditions were harsh and miserable. The incident started with a fire in the mine caused by a gas and dust explosion near the entrance. Unfortunately, the administrators chose to seal the mine off and cut the ventilation as a means to extinguishing the fire. However, this left the workers who hadn’t been evacuated within the area that had been sealed off. They were left to suffocate. The fire was extinguished, but when the mine was re-opened it took ten days to find every body. 31 Japanese miners were killed and 1,518 Chinese workers died.
Sadly, the bodies were left in a mass grave. An investigation, which was carried out by the former Soviet Union, found that the initial fire wasn’t the cause of the majority of the deaths. Rather, it was the hasty decision to seal the mine that killed the workers. Suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning extinguished almost 1,600 lives in the world’s worst mine accident.
This is just another example of how a minor accident spiralled out of control due to poor health and safety decisions.