Mine fires and explosions

The following information and resources are being provided as part of NFPA's commitment to increasing awareness and enhancing public safety.

Mining and mineral processing facilities represent significant fire and explosion exposures to both personnel and production equipment and buildings. From a personnel safety standpoint, underground mining has been by far the global loss leader in fatalities and injuires for all industries.

In the 100-year period from 1900 to 1999, more than 100,000 miners died from all unintentional-injury causes, including fires and explosions, in U.S. coal mine incidents alone, an average of 1,040 a year. In the last decade, this has been reduced to 450 fatalities, or an average of 45 per year. Approximately 10-15 percent can be attributed directly to fires and explosions.

Life-threatening incidents, though more common in coal mines, have also occurred in the noncoal (metal and nonmetal) mining industry. In the same 100-year period ending 1999, approximately 23,000 miners died in various incidents in noncoal mines, including fire and explosions. Recent advances in mining and safety technologies and the promulgation of more stringent government regulations have significantly reduced fatalities from underground mine fires and explosions.

Free NFPA report: Coal Mine Fires and Explosions with Three or More Deaths, 1985-2009, (PDF, 32 KB)

Documented mine disasters (5 or more deaths)

Historic period Coal mines Metal/ nonmetal mines Total
Through 1875  19 4 23
1876-1900 101 17 118
1901-1925 305 51 356
1926-1950 147 23 170
1951-1975 35 9 44
1976-present 17 1 18
Source: Mine Safety & Health Administration

10 deadliest U.S. mining fires and explosions

Location Date   Number of deaths  
Monongha, WV December 6, 1907 361
Mather, PA May 19, 1928 273
Dawson, NM October 22, 1913 263
Cherry, IL November 13, 1909 259
Jacobs Creek, PA December 19, 1907 239
Scofield, UT May 1, 1900 200
Coal Creek, TN May 19, 1902 184
Eccles, WV April 28, 1914 181
Chewick, PA January 25, 1904 179
Castle Gate, UT March 8, 1924 171
Source: NFPA major-incident files; U.S. Bureau of Mines, The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1988 and The Great International Disaster Book by James Cornell.

Five deadliest U.S. coal mine disasters since 1940

Location Date   Number of deaths  
West Frankfort, IL December 21, 1951 119
Centralia, IL March 25, 1947 111
Bartley, WV January 10, 1940 91
Farmington, WV November 20, 1968 78
St. Clairsville, OH March 16, 1940 72
Source: Mine Safety & Health Administration

NFPA codes, standards, and recommended practices
Reference to the following NFPA documents will provide further information on mining methods and equipment:

Also see Section 9.16, Mining and Mineral Processing, of NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition.

Other resources

Featured Product
Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition
Stay competitive and well-informed with the industry's #1 reference -- NFPA®'s 20th Edition Fire Protection Handbook®!
Item #: FPH08

NFPA 120: Standard for Fire Prevention and Control in Coal Mines
Reduce fire and explosion hazards throughout the coal mining industry with NFPA 120.
Item #: NFPA_120

NFPA 122: Standard for Fire Prevention and Control in Metal/Nonmetal Mining and Metal Mineral Processing Facilities
Prevent fires in mines and safeguard personnel with NFPA 122.
Item #: NFPA_122