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Bulli Colliery Gas Explosion 1887
2.30pm on Wednesday, March 23rd, 1887, an explosion in the mine blew
out of the tunnel mouth carrying with it an unconscious boy, Herbert Cope.
Eighty one bodies were recovered and subsequently buried at St. Augustines
Church of England, with eight at Fairy Meadow Roman Catholic cemetery
(Corrimal), some at Woonona churchyard and the unidentified at Bulli.
Colliery was a "gassy" pit having high concentrations of
"firedamp" (methane) within its coal. Bleeding off into the mine
workings, this gas was diluted and removed to the surface by the circulating air
of the ventilation system before it accumulated and formed an inflammable mix
(methane is inflammable within the approximate range of 5 - 15% when mixed with
air so the object is to maintain the gas concentration well below the 5% level).
source of the explosion was in the "Hill End" headings, known to be
gassy and subject to gas "blowers". Not helped by the fact that the
men working these headings had become casual towards the presence of gas and
compounded by a deputy who apparently tolerated the use of unlocked lamps in
contravention of "The Coal Fields Regulation Act", regulations that
required all gas to be reported immediately to management and that locked oil
flame safety lamps be used in gassy mines.
oil flame safety lamps were in use at the time, it apparently was common
practice to remove the safety gauze from around the flame to permit more light
from the lamp as this was the miners' only light source. In addition shots were
being initiated by lighting the fuse from the open flame of the lamp or by
special commission and jury was quite scathing in its findings blaming both the
miners and management for their attitude towards safety. Even the Government
Inspector of Mines showed a lack of information as to what was happening at the
conclusion reached by the commission was "that
the explosion was caused by marsh gas or carbonic hydrate that had accumulated
at the face. That the immediate cause was probably the flame from an overcharged
shot fired by a miner in the coal in No. 2 Heading." This gas explosion
propagated a coal dust explosion and travelled towards the fresh air at the
surface. The commission was also of the opinion that the Deputy, Overman and to
a lesser extent the Manager, were all guilty of contributing negligence.
last surviving widow died in 1942 and the sole survivor, Herbert Cope, died in
1952, aged 84.
Bulli Colliery - 1887
- The Illawarra Mercury 26/04/1887)
Disaster - The 1887 Bulli Mine Tragedy by Mick Roberts
Looking Back: Disaster - The 1887 Bulli Mine Tragedy by Mick Roberts
For more information on Bulli Colliery, see also...
Disasters - Bulli
Colliery Underground Fire - 1965