Wakefield, Yorkshire. 21st March 1973
The colliery workings after the water ingress
The inquiry into the causes and circumstances attending the inrush which occurred at the Lofthouse Colliery, Yorkshire on 21st March 1973, was conducted by J.W. Calder, C.B., O.B.E., B.Sc., C.Eng., F.I.Min.E., H.M. Inspector of Mines and Quarries, at No. 1 Crown Court, Wakefield on 30th, May 1973 and lasted for eight days. The report was presented to The Right Honourable Peter Walker, M.B.E., M.P., Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 30th August 1973. All interested parties were represented.
The Inspector said that many of the possibilities of an inrush could have been foreseen. There was water in South 9B district, water was found in the shotholes,there was smell in the 9B district, there had been subsidence at the Bull Pit in September 1972 and the plans and records were available.
The inquiry concluded that:-
1) The disaster was caused by an inrush of water from old workings in the Flockton Thin seam into the South 9B face at a point between 30 and 70 yards from the main gate roadhead
2) The old uncharted workings probably originated from the Bye Pit, now known to have been sunk to the Flockton Thin seam, and the Engine Pit of the long abandoned Old Low Laithes Colliery
3) The magnitude and the violence of the inrush were due to the shafts and associated wastes in the Gawthorpe and Haigh Moor seams being water logged over a considerable area
4) The victims whose bodies were not recovered were probably killed instantly
5) Important decisions relating to the safe working of the mine were taken at the planning stage by surveyors and were accepted by the manager and the Section 1 appointees who did not call for and examine the supporting information
6) The implications of the environmental changes which took place in the district in the weeks immediately prior to the inrush were not fully appreciated.
The inquiry recommended that:-
1) In planning for the extraction of an area of coal all the available evidence should be listed and attached to the layout plan. Minutes should be taken of all discussions and the final decisions should be recorded and should be taken by a senior mining engineer carrying appropriate responsibilities under Section 1 of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954
2) When an area of coal under consideration includes old shafts or workings prior to 1900, the utmost care should be taken during the preliminary investigation to ascertain their position and extent. In the absence of positive information the coal should not be worked
3) Approaches to the Institute of Geological Sciences relating to areas of coal which are intended to be worked should be accompanied by a written request for information so that the full facilities of the Institute can be utilised
4) The National Coal Board and the Institute of Geological Sciences should set up a small working party to consider the feasibility of preparing a catalogue of old geological field note books and other documents to ensure that these sources of information are not overlooked
5) A national appeal should be launched by the Department of Trade and Industry for old mining plans held in private hands to be made available for copying
6) The development of equipment capable of handling fluids with a high solids content should be pursued.”
Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1981 to 2000 said: "I was one of those who wanted the operation to continue. First of all, I wanted to get to the men because their loved ones needed to recover their bodies if they were dead and there was a possibility that they could be alive. It was important in my view, if we were to discover what exactly had taken place, to go into the area where the accident had occurred."