1889 Hamilton Colliery
1889 Hamilton Colliery (Glebe) Fall of Roof
On the morning of 22 June 1889, about 100 men were working in the Hamilton Pit at Glebe Mine, Merewether, NSW, when the roof began to creak and then collapsed.
The mine was one of the largest in the district, employing close to a thousand workers and producing approximately 1,600 tonnes of coal per day. The workings of the pit were approximately 61 metres below the surface. The incident occurred in an area where the workings had been almost completely exhausted. Pillars of coal on which the roof rested were being removed and the tram rails were being withdrawn in preparation to abandon some of the workings.
There had been reports of the roof creaking overhead on the morning of the incident. When a coal seam is being squeezed by pressure from roof and floor, it emits creaking noises and is said to be ‘working’. This often serves as a warning to the miners that additional support is needed. . That morning the men were working in the crosscut about one and a half kilometres from the pit entrance. The roof fall was reported as ‘a most deafening and bewildering subterranean cannonade’ with many of the men knocked down and their lights extinguished. Most of the men made their way out with great difficulty, due to blockages caused by the continuing fall of rock, but 11 workers did not escape and were entombed in the mine. The bodies were recovered over the course of the rescue effort which took almost 10 weeks. It was reported that some of the men died from injuries and suffocation, while some succumbed to starvation.
During the original inquest, the jury found that the cause of the fall was a weakness in the pillars, considering them to be too small for the weight of the roof. Recommendations were made regarding the dimensions of pillars and bords and for government inspectors to have greater powers. It was also decided that the mine manager had neglected his duty by not removing the men from the mine following reports that the pit was ‘working’.
A second inquest revealed a lack of urgency in the rescue effort and that those who were in positions of authority did not follow proper procedures.
Ground or strata failure is a principal hazard under current Regulation
Mine and petroleum site operators must prepare a principal hazard management plan which provides for the management of all aspects of risk control in relation to the principal hazard of ground or strata failure (refer clause 24, Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Regulation 2014).
The incident claimed the lives of 11 people: Jebez Roberts (35), David Proctor (45), John Peate Snr (50), John Peate Jnr (20), Herbert Pettit (26), Daniel Masson (27), John Meadows (32), George Beaumont (50), Alexander Grant (30), Thomas Banfield (18), James Hodson (54).
- Serious Mining Disaster at Newcastle - Collapse in the A.A Company's coal mine - eleven men entombed - marvellous escape of others - search parties at work, The Argus, Melbourne VIC, 24 June 1889
- The Hamilton Pit (Glebe Mine) Disaster, 22 June 1889, Coal and Community, The University of Newcastle Australia
- A Great Fall of Roof - the Hamilton Mine Disaster, Hidden Hamilton, 4 January 2014
- The Colliery Disaster at the Glebe - the inquest, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, NSW, 30 July 1889
- The Hamilton Disaster - resumed inquest on James Hodson, Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 11 September 1889
- The Glebe Colliery Disaster - further discoveries of bodies, The Queenslander, Brisbane QLD, 7 September 1889