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Caprington Colliery No. 41 Pit, near Kilmarnock - Page 2


10 December 1909


Caprington 10th December 1909

[Report by Thomas H Mottram. Inspector of Mines]

Conclusions

The primary cause of the disaster was the working of the E.11 coal from No. 41 pit where the surface cover was only 18 feet thick. In the course of time the E.11 coal roof which formed part of the cover deteriorated and collapsed with the gravel and sand above when the surface was flooded during the night.

The question naturally arises why the management allowed this colliery to work when the surface cover in the E.11 coal was only 18 feet thick and underneath land known to be subject to occasional flooding.

As previously stated, the same seam was worked in an adjoining colliery by the stoop and room method 60 years ago. The stoops or pillars left then to support the surface were three yards, or thereabouts, square, not only under the low-lying land, but under the river itself where the cover was less than 18 feet.

The condition of these old workings was ascertained through an encroachment having been made into the Caprington Estate, and they were found open and dry. The owners thereupon continued to work the E.11 coal, but in doing so left stoops five yards instead of three yards square until five years ago when, owing to the roof becoming softer, they stopped the working altogether, and confined their attention to the Blind coal seam, 15 fathoms below. As no inrush of water occurred, and the roof of the old E.11 coal workings had remained intact for so long a period, the management appear to have considered there was no real danger of surface water getting into the pit, and consequently continued to work the Blind coal seam until the time of the disaster. The Blind coal workings were underneath the E.11 coal, and another question arose as to whether the working of the lower seam contributed to the cause of the accident.

I made a careful inspection of the Blind Coal workings afterwards with this thought in view and found no perceptible indication whatever of crush or creep to show that the lower working had "pulled" the workings above. On the other hand it was ascertained at the inquiry that falls of roof had occurred in the E.11 coal when that seam was worked from No. 41 pit, and also that there had been previous "sits" in the surface in the vicinity of the subsidence which later on caused the disaster, and yet the ground had previously proved impervious to an inrush of water. Mr. Hugh S. Dunn, the managing partner of the firm, and a mining engineer of long experience, stated at the inquiry that this was due to the strata clotting and filling up the surface breaks, and that it was owing to this fact, and to experience derived from the solidity of the old workings under the river, he had formed the opinion that it was quite safe to work out the E.11 coal, and thereafter to take out the blind coal at a lower level.

Mr. Gibson, the manager of the pit, however, seems to have had some misgiving as to the safety of the workers on one occasion in 1904 when the surface was flooded, for he withdrew the men from the mine more as he described it "as a precaution as regards the river itself" than from fear of the flooded surface, and evidence was also led at the inquiry to show that the men themselves had had fears as to their own safety, for a worker named Harry Stewart spoke of one occasion that occurred a year ago when most of the men left the pit. Later on,however, as nothing happened apparently they regained confidence, and the working of the pit thereafter continued until the night of the accident.

It seems very doubtful whether the owners were justified by the experiences quoted in continuing to work the pit. Under normal conditions, that is to say, when there was no flooding of the surface, it was evidently comparatively safe to work the mine, but had the management appreciated or recognised the effect that percolation of water and consequent saturation of the E.11 coal roof might have on some part of the roof softer than the rest, I think they would have elected to keep the men out of the mine when flooding of the surface existed or was anticipated. The Mines Act contains no provision as to precautions to be taken when working coal near to the surface.

John

Balfour

aged 25

Miner

Alexander

jnr Clark

aged 16

Drawer  

Peter

Dorans

aged 36

Waterman  

Henry

Graham

aged 22

Miner  

James

Lennon

aged 17

Driver  

David

McCabe

aged 33

Miner  

Charles

McSherry

aged 15

Drawer  

James

Menzies

aged 15

Drawer  

Hugh

jnr Ramsay

aged 19

Waterman

John

Stewart

aged 17

Drawer

 

 

 

 

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