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History of mining - Atacama Region, Chile

Mine Safety

Mining 1830 - 1920

W. Griem, 2006 - 2021

Page Content
Text: Introduction
Mining accidents
Intro Mining History

Accidente en una mina
Accidente por derrumbo de Simonin  - - -

 Introduction to mining history 1830 - 1920

español / deutsch / English

Massification of mining, the increase in the use of machinery, and the deepening rate, the rate of accidents increased. Besides, the consciousness of latent dangers such as gases, dust (silicosis), and others arrived.

The mines were very unsafe according to today's standards, mainly because of a lack of resources and a lack of expertise. Literature of that time took this topic often up. The French book "La Vie Souterraine du Les Mines et les Mineures" (Paris 1867) shows quite impressively and drastically the non-compliance with the safety regulations on the part of the miners.
However, we must assume that the miner was very careful to work safely and, if possible, without an accident in the shaft. He knew that rescue was almost impossible in the deep labyrinths of that time. There were hardly any hospitals; they were far away and undoubtedly expensive.
The treatment methods and medications were, as one might imagine, not always helpful. It should have been clear to every miner that only accident prevention protects. Of course, many accidents have been provoked by the lack of technology or poor construction and working materials (ladders, explosives, etc.) and a lack of geological knowledge or extremely long working hours.

In the literature (e. g. Treutler), in Copiapó, a more significant number of blind men lived, which is interpreted as an indication of frequent explosions. Also, the public showed great respect for these people, and there was generous support from the population. (see below *1)

One of the miners' central demands during this time was, therefore, to secure the mine. The accidents damaged the miner and his professional future. Mine safety quickly became a significant issue in the development of trade union organizations.

Of course, the major mining accidents had a significant impact on general security policy. For example, in the Radbod coal mine in 1908, about 348 miners were killed. This accident finally led to a reorientation in occupational safety, and the authorities introduced a control body. In Chile, accidents were also frequent in the mines during this period. Paul Treutler describes a blasting accident at the Cobriza mine in Tres Puntas around 1853. [Accidente en la mina Cobriza]

Several achievements can easily recognize the European, especially English, influence.
That is reflected in a letter that a miner from Cornwall, England, wrote in a letter to his parents:
"We have got some of the Tuckingmill safety in our mine, but I have seen some rope yarn in other mines. They do call it safety fuse; it is brought from England the natives are afraid of it."

List of some mining accidents
Year Mine Information
1376 Rammelsberg / Germany More than 100 dead in mine collapse. [Aquí: Rammelsberg, Harz (Groddeck, 1879)]
1866 Yorkshire /Inglaterra [Coal] Explosion of firedamp gas [388 fatalities]
1869 Freital / Alemania [Coal] Explosion of firedamp gas [276 fatalities]
1878 Harz, Germany [Ag, Cu, Pb] Breakage of the iron Guide rod of the "men machine" o Fahrkunst [11 fatalities] - [Here: Men machine (Leo, 1861)]
1892 Bohemia, Pribram / Mine - Ag Fire at 950 meters deep [319 fatalities]
1906 Courrieres, France [Coal] Mine explosion [1099 fatalities]
1908 Radbrod, Germany [Coal] Mine fire, flooding of firefighting workings [348 dead]: Start of a new mine safety policy in Germany
1913 Gales [Coal] Explosions [439 fatalities]
1917 Germany, Bochum [Coal] Fall of the cage from 400 meters height to the pique. [41 dead] - Aquí: Safety Cage (Simonin 1869)
1942 China, Benxiu [Coal] Coal particle explosion potentially the most serious accident in mining history [1549 dead].
1946 Germany, Bergkamen [Coal] firedamp gas - Explosion [405 dead]
1946 Mine Riedel, Germany [Sal] Explosives warehouse accident [86 fatalities]
1960 China, Shanxi [Coal] 682 fatalities
1963 Lengede, Germany [Fierro] Flooding of the mine due to tailings dam breakage, 29 dead, 11 miners were surprisingly found alive, 14 days after the accident they returned to daylight.
2010 San José, Chile [Cu] 33 miners trapped in a 700-meter deep shaft; rescue achieved 69 days after accident [no fatalities]. - [Aquí: Accident San José]
W.Griem /


Accidente en una mina
Accident: From: "La Vie Souterraine Du Les Mines et les Mineures" (Paris 1867) - Foto grande




Literature and Links
Bibliographical reference

TREUTLER, PAUL (1882): Fünfzehn Jahre in Südamerika an de Ufern des Stillen Ozeans. - 3 Bd., Seite 50; Weltpostverlag, Leipzig.

Full letter in English: thanks: Thanks to Sharron P. Schwartz (University of Exeter) - for the permissions.


Historia del Partido Socialdemócrata en Alemania (en alemán)

SIMONIN, L. (1867): La vie Soutterraine ou les mines et les mineurs. - Paris, Libraire de L. Hachette et G.

Literature and links: List of bibliography:  Here
Bibliographical reference
● SIMONIN, L. (1869): Underground life, Mines y Miners. - 522 páginas, Translated by H.W. Bristol; London; Chapman & Hall; 1869. (Collection W. Griem) - see page with more links

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Published: 7.10.2017; updated: 7.10.2017, 15.7.2018, 28.02.2021
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