Drilling and loading holes and the storage of explosives was another source of injuries and death. Even common sense was not all that common in the bosses pursuit of fast profit. At one mine the dynamite was stored in the blacksmith shop of all places, and was detonated by a spark touching off the blasting caps, blowing the place up and killing the workers inside. The most common accidents from drilling and loading holes came from:
Cages that were used to lower the miners down the shaft, buckets, mine cars, giraffes and electric trains were another source of injuries and deaths. Like all things in a mine the equipment was the cheapest that the boss could get away with, additional safety equipment was not used, the equipment that they did have was not maintained as it should have been, equipment was pushed passed its limits, and the great speed that the workers were forced to work caused mistakes. Because of these things many a miner were injured or died.
Gas was another common source of danger. As the blasters would blast out new holes, from time to time they would hit pockets of gas. If the gas did not explode causing a far larger explosion than the blaster counted on, it would fill up that part of the mine killing all workers in that area.
Silicosis, or as the miners called it, "the con", is a lung disease, like Asbestosis, Black and Brown Lung disease. It comes from Silica that is the world's most abundant mineral. In mining operations, such as blasting and drilling, great clouds of dust are created and within that dust is Silica. In the old days the bosses made no effort to keep the dust down. Once a miner got "dusted" as they called catching "the con", the miner did not last long. It starts out with a shortness of breath and slowly the miner suffocates to death. There is no real treatment for silicosis, other than to stop working in the mines at the first symptoms. But since most miners were trapped in their line of work, they would keep on working until they could not carry on any longer. Then most of them would slowly die along and penniless. In later years, as the result of a bitter struggle for safety, water hoses were connected to the jack-legs (drilling machines) that would cut down on the dust. Though this did prolong the lives of the miners, it did not eliminate "the con" all together.
Rock bursts [are] a source of many deaths and injuries of miners. Rock bursts are caused when the ground is blasted loose in one area of the mine, causing stresses to build up in the surrounding rock. When the rock can no longer withstand the stress it bursts out in a shower of rock and dust. Sometimes the burst is so great that the whole mine shakes like an earthquake. There have been some big rock bursts that were so great that they showed up on regional earthquake monitoring equipment. Rock bursts can spilt or even cause to crumble of even the best timbering supports. Miners can be buried or hit by flying rock. Those not in the direct area will be hit by an air blast, which they, unaffectionately call "a visit from Mr. Air Blast."
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