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Mining Accidents

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This interesting local book on Mining Accidents was printed in Penzance in 1817 and details accidents, some in the most gruesome of detail, and measures on how to prevent them.

The local newspapers are full of the gruesome details of the regular occurrence of accidents; the majority of them were fatal. Age was no barrier and it was spread equally between young and old, and many a family was left fatherless and in debt. There was no Heath and Safety at Work Act then to ensure that there were safe working conditions.

Below is a selection extracted from the local newspaper that applies to Mellanear Mine only.


1876 October 21

At Mellanear Mine, near Hayle, on Thursday week, William Miles, Angarrack, was engaged at the mine about a pump. In lifting it, it fell upon him, broke his leg and splintered the bone seriously.


1878 October 31

On Thursday morning, 24th instant, about 11 o'clock, John Pascoe, a young man aged 16 years, met with his death by becoming entangled in the machinery of the crusher at Mellanear Mine. An inquest will be held at Saundry's public House, St. Erth, at five o'clock in Saturday (to-morrow) afternoon, 26th Instant.


1879 September 16

An inquest was held on Friday, at Leedstown Inn, Crowan, on the body of Peter Bennetts, 63 years old, killed at Mellanear Mine, on 27th August last. Deceased and his son were putting a stull piece at the 90m fathoms level. A bit of rock was in the way of the timber, and the deceased began to knock it away with a pick. A gravel or two came down from overhead, and whilst looking up six or seven hundredweight of rock fell away from five or six feet above. Deceased was struck about the head and shoulders, and carried down with the ground about two feet. The son, who was not much hurt, called for a light, and he and Captain Woolcock found deceased lying on his stomach with two or three barrow-fuls of stuff on him. The doctor said he had severe internal injuries, and in twenty hours he died. The place where the ground fell appeared firm, and there was no stint of timber. Captain Woolcock said only two or three minutes previously he had examined the ground and it seemed secure. Dr. Bennetts said he thought his shoulder was broke, but he had no scars, and at first it was believed the injuries were trivial. Thr ground was soft killas, and fell from between two pieces of timber. Ground had not fallen from there before or since. Verdict - 'Accidental death'.


1881 October 20

Willam King, miner, known familiarly among his friends a “ Shafter," and one of Relubbus, died at Mellanear on Tuesday of consumption after a comparatively brief illnass. He went from this neighbourhood to Mellanear to live about two months ago. Deceased broke a blood vessel whilst working in Mellanear mine and has never been well since. He is 55 and leaves a widow.


1884 February 21

James Oates, miner, has received serious injuries to his face and head, and has lost his right eye, by an explosion of dynamite at Mellanear Mine, Hayle. A stone which had penetrated the man's skull had to be broken before it could be extracted; Messrs Mudge, surgeons, successfully performing the operations. Oates lies in a very critical condition.


1888 October 11

A fatal accident occurred at Mellanear mine on Friday to John Dunstan , of High Lanes. Deceased was 26, and leaves a wife and two children. He was working with six others at the bottom of Gundry's shaft in the 90 fathom level when about three tons of earth fell and buried him killing him instantly. The other man had an extremely narrow escape. After much difficulty Dunstan was dug out and brought to surface, the body being subsequently conveyed to his home to await an inquest . That inquest was held at the White Hart hotel, on Monday morning by Mr Grenfell, the county coroner.

The jury, of whom Mr J. P. Smith was foreman after being sworn, proceeded to the house to view the body. On their returning evidence was given by Henry Martin, of Lelant, and James Oates, of Mellanear, who stated that the deceased and the former witness were working at the 100 fathom level in Mellanear. They blasted a hole; and, ten minutes after it exploded and the smoke cleared, they went back and examined the ground, which they considered perfectly safe. They commenced to clear away the burden, but in a short time about a ton of ground fell away from above and knocked down the deceased, a large rock of about ten or twelve hundredweight falling on his chest and head and killing him instantly. Assistance was called and the body taken to the surface. Mr Martin,

Government inspector, stated that he had examined the part; where the accident had occurred, and considered it the safest portion of the mine. He thought no blame could be attached to anyone, it being quite an accident.

A verdict that ' Deceased was accidentally killed by the ground falling on him ' was then returned.