Coal Miners’ Day is observed on May 4 every year to recognize the hard work of some of the great unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution. It is a day to appreciate the mine workers who sacrificed their lives, to honor their accomplishments and to remember the tragedies they experienced. This day helps to highlight the plight one of the toughest profession and the hardships they face.
Coal and it’s Uses
Coal is a major source of energy and is one of the most important primary fossil fuels that is rich in carbon. It is produced by the compaction and hardening of altered plant remains. The varieties of coal is due to the differences in the kinds of plant material.
Uses of Coal
- Coal is primarily used in the production of electrical power using steam generation.
- Coal is heated and pressurized with steam to produce gas for domestic lighting, heating and cooking. It is liquefied to make synthetic fuels similar to petroleum or diesel. The majority of these projects are located in the USA and China. It is also done in Indonesia, India, Australia, Canada and South Africa.
- Coal is used in paper, textile and glass industries.
- It is also used in the manufacture of carbon fiber and specialist ingredients such as silicon metals, which are used to produce ingredients for the household and personal care sectors.
- Coal is used as a key energy source in cement production.
- Coking coal is a key ingredient in steelmaking. It is also used in the production of other metals including aluminum and copper.
History of Coal Mining
Even though coal mining has been done for centuries, they became significantly important during the Industrial revolution between 1760 and 1840 when coal was used on a large scale to fuel stationary and locomotive engines and heat buildings.
In India, coal mining began in the year 1774 when John Summer and Suetonius Grant Heatly of the East India Company started commercial exploration in the Raniganj Coalfield along the western banks of the Damodar river. However, for about a century the growth of Indian coal mining remained sluggish. Demand for coal increased after the introduction of steam locomotives by railways in 1853. The production got a sudden boost from the First World War but went through a slump in the early thirties.
After independence, the Indian government focused more on the mining industry and growth based on the Five-Year Plans. Setting up of the National Coal Development Corporation (NCDC), a Government of India Undertaking in 1956 with the collieries owned by the railways as its nucleus was the first major step towards planned development of Indian Coal Industry. Beside NCDC, there was also the Singareni Collieries Company Ltd. (SCCL) which was operational since 1945. The government of India took over the management of the coking and non-coking coal mines in seven States in 1971. BCCL (M/s. Bharat Coking Coal Limited), and CMAL (Coal Mines Authority Limited) have taken over the coal mines as national properties. Both of the companies later merged together and formed Coal India Limited in 1975. With the enactment of the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973, the coal mines in the country were nationalized.
Coal Mining and it’s Negative Impact
Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground. It takes place either underground or through surface operations depending on the geology of the coal deposit. In the early days, men used to dig tunnels and manually extract coal on carts to large open-cut and longwall mines. Nowadays it’s done using draglines, trucks, conveyors, hydraulic jacks and shearers.
The coal mining industry has a long history of significant negative environmental impacts on local ecosystems, health impacts on local communities and workers, and contributes heavily to the global environmental crises, such as poor air quality and climate change. Coal mining has been a very dangerous activity and these mines are not a healthy place to work in. There is a long list of disasters with several incidents of extreme exploitation and massacre that took place in coal mines. Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions; underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse, rock burst, outbursts, and gas explosions.
Coal Mining Disasters in History
There have been several deadly coal mining disasters in several places around the world. A few of these are mentioned below:
- The Benxihu colliery disaster which occurred on 26th April 1942 in the Honkeiko coal mine, located near Benxi in the Liaoning province of China is considered as the worst coal mining disaster ever. It was caused by a mixture of gas and coal dust. Gas exploded in one of the shafts and sent flames bursting out of the entrance. This incident led to the deaths of 1,549 lives.
- The Courrieres mine disaster in France occurred on 10th March 1906 in the Courriers mine located near the Pas-de-Calais hills in northern France. This was Europe’s worst mining disaster. The main cause of the explosion was either an accident during the handling of mining explosives or ignition of methane by the naked flame of a miner’s lamp. The disaster caused the death of 1,099 people.
- Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine disaster is the worst mining incident in Japanese history. It occurred on 15th December 1914 at the Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine located in the Kyushu Island of Japan. The disaster took the life of 687 people. This was caused by coal dust and methane gas mixing together until a spark set off a huge explosion which led to the blowing of the mine shaft cage.
- The Senghenydd Colliery disaster occurred at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd near Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales, on 14th October 1913. It is the worst ever mining tragedy in the United Kingdom leading to the deaths of 439 miners. This was a result of a coal dust explosion in the underground mine. Most of the miners who survived the fire and explosion were killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- The Chasnala mining disaster is the worst disaster in Indian coal mining history. It happened on 27th December 1975 in a coal mine in Chasnala near Dhanbad in the state of Jharkhand. An explosion in the mine followed by flooding killed 375 miners.
The coal industry takes the issue of safety very seriously. Modern coal mines have rigorous safety procedures, health and safety standards and worker education and training. This has helped in reducing the fatalities in recent decades. As part of improving mining safety, all mines are inspected every year to ensure safe and healthy work environments for miners. Any incident of accident, injuries and illnesses at the mine have to be immediately reported by the mine operator. All miners have to wear personal protective gear. This shield miners from impacts, chemicals and extreme temperatures. Mining equipment like excavators, drill rigs, rock dusters and ventilation devices are regularly serviced to increase the life of these tools and heavy machinery and pose less danger to miners. Techniques have been developed to eliminate and/or dilute methane emissions both prior to and during mining and this has helped to significantly reduce methane related explosions in underground mines.
Coal Miners’ Day 2023 Theme
The primary objective of this day is to create awareness about the significance of coal mining, although the Coal Miners Day 2023 Theme has not been announced yet.
In 2022 the United Nations Mine Action Service marks the Day under the theme “Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home.” The focus of the observance is on the impressive achievements of the global mine action community, starting with the work of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) – founded in 1992 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 – as well as on the achievements of UN Member States in the period since the Mine Ban Convention came into force in 1999, and on highlighting the work that remains to be completed.
Coal Miners’ Day 2023 Quotes
- Every time you warm yourself in front of a hot coal stove, remember the coal miners in the cold dark corridors and pray for them! – Mehmet Murat ldan
- Mining is a dangerous profession. There’s no way to make a mine completely safe: These are the words owners have always used to excuse needless deaths and the words miners use to prepare for them. -Tawni O’Dell
- Coal miners work hard and deserve our respect. They also deserve a governor who fights for policies that will give them a fair shot to support their families and get ahead. That’s exactly what I’ll deliver as governor. -Andy Beshear
- I think of doing a series as very hard work. But then I have talked to coal miners, and that’s really hard work-William Shatner
- The mining industry might make wealth and power for a few men and women, but the many would always be smashed and battered beneath its giant treads. -Katharine Susannah Prichard
- Working in the tea fields under a beautiful sunshine is the dream of all the miners. -Mehmet Murat ildan
Coal Miners’ Day 2023 Quiz
Which country has the title of the world’s largest producer of coal?
Ans: b) China
Which is the most dangerous toxic gas found in coal mines?
a) Carbon monoxide
b) Hydrogen sulfide
Ans: a) Carbon monoxide
Which historical period gave rise to the largest increase in coal production around the world?
a) The Nuclear Age
c) Industrial Revolution
d) The Dark Ages
Ans: c) Industrial Revolution
What is the cleanest type of coal?
d) Sub bituminous
Ans: b) Anthracite
What is the most abundant type of coal?
d) Sub bituminous
Ans: b) Bituminous
Which is the largest coal mine in India?
a) Deucha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsinga coal block
c) Birbhum Coalfield
d) Raniganj Coalfield
Ans: a) Deucha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsinga coal block
Which state in India has the largest coal reserve?
Ans: b) Jharkhand
Where is the world’s largest coal mine located?
Ans: b) India
When is World Coal Miner’s Day observed?
a) April 14th
b) May 4th
c) April 4th
d) May 14th
Ans: b) May 4th
Which of the following is the world’s worst mining disaster?
a) The Senghenydd Colliery disaster
b) Mitsubishi Hojyo coal mine disaster
c) The Courrieres mine disaster
d) The Benxihu colliery disaster
Ans: d) The Benxihu colliery disaster
World Coal Miners Day is just a chance for all of us appreciate the comforts and luxuries that we enjoy in our everyday lives only because these miners toil hard to dig out this natural fossil fuel from the heart of the earth. These coal miners deserve all the respect and appreciation.