1887 Bulli Colliery Explosion
On 23 March 1887, Bulli Colliery experienced a gas explosion which blew out of the tunnel mouth, carrying with it an unconscious boy and killing 81 men and boys.
An inquiry found that management had become lax about safety and allowed the miners to remove the mesh from their lamps despite the dangerous gas build-up. Others believed that the miners, forced back to work at the end of the strike in February, were coerced into signing agreements that penalised workers for complaints about safety.
The immediate cause was found to be an exposed Davy lamp or “probably an overcharged shot” fired by one of the miners which ignited the gas. The resulting explosion blew out supports and caved in parts of the mine.
Rescue crews went into the mine to look for survivors. Unfortunately, other than the boy, there were no survivors. Some men were killed by the blast, some by rockfalls, while others were asphyxiated by the poisonous atmosphere.
The investigating commission was scathing in their findings. The blame was placed on the heads of mine management and the miners themselves, citing their laid-back approach to safety as the predominant cause of the explosion.
This incident claimed the lives of 81 people.
Bulli Colliery accident: report of Royal Commission. Together with the minutes of evidence and appendices. (PDF, 48.6 MB)
The Bulli Mining Disaster 1887, lessons from the past. Donald P. Dingsdag, St Louis Press 1993, Sydney
'Bulli wives' tears for 81 coal miners who would never come home', The Daily Telegraph (23 March 2017)
Explosion at Bulli Colliery, 1887
The Bulli Mine Disaster Centenary, Illawarra Historical Society, MK Organ, 1987
Who were the men and boys killed in the 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster of 1887
Information about the Bulli mine memorial
'Bulli remembers its lost sons from 1887: photos', Illawarra Mercury (23 March 2015)
'How the impact of the Bulli Mining Disaster not only lasted decades but generations: VIDEO', Illawarra Mercury (27 March 2018)
'Lies & deception - At the Bulli Royal Commission', 14 March 2014
Boxer Larry Foley’s Bulli Disaster benefit (25 August 2015)
Bulli constable recorded Bulli disaster victims (17 June 2015)
Bulli Disaster, 27 November 2014 (27 November 2014)
'The Bulli Mine Disaster', Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXI, Issue 72 (26 March 1887)
Beneath Black Skies - Australia's largest industrial disaster, A study guide by Roger Stitson