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1898 East Greta Colliery Fall of Roof

Case Study

On 18 November 1898, three men died after being buried by a fall of roof at the East Greta Colliery in NSW.

At about 7:00 am, a fall of roof took place approximately 204 metres from the mouth of the main (No.1) tunnel. Due to the high inclination of the seam, about 300 tons of material fell and rolled down into the face where the men were working, causing the death of three men.

The consensus was that the fall was caused by roof pressure due to the thinning out of the conglomerate, which was then replaced by mudstone, which reacted to water. There had not been any extensive falls in the colliery prior to the disaster.

Recovery of the three bodies took five weeks due to the large quantity of timber needed to secure the roof and the dangerous and difficult work.

Inquest on body of Albert Moncrieff

At the inquest into the death of Albert Moncrieff, the doctor concluded that the primary cause was shock and suffocation. There were no broken bones. He was almost certain that the death was instantaneous.

The jurors of the inquest could not agree on a verdict. Ten jurors decided in favour of an unconditional verdict of accidental death, while the remaining two jurors considered that some attention should be paid to what they believed was a non-compliance, by some of the officials, with the special rules of the colliery.

Prosecutions against the Manager and Undermanager

The Mine Manager, Mr Azaria Thomas, was charged with failing to comply with General Rule 4, section 47, of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1896 because during the evening shift on the day prior to the accident, a ‘contractor for getting minerals’ had carried out the inspection of the mine. However, the bench dismissed the case on the ground that the men who had carried out the inspection were not ‘contractors for getting minerals’.

The Undermanager, Mr Henry Cartwright, was charged with a breach of Special Rules 3 for not visiting the No. 1 tunnel daily, or as often as practicable. He pleaded guilty and was fined.

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 3 people: Daniel Gronow (29), Albert Moncrieff (25) and Stephen Richard Barnes (23).