Today in Buried History: The French Mining Disaster that killed over 1,300 workers
March 10th marks the date of the worst coal mining disaster in European History. It was on this day in 1906, in a mine in northern France operated by the Courrières mining company that a coal dust explosion killed between 1,060 and 1,300 miners. Days before the tragedy, a union delegate had warned the company that smoke and toxic gas had been detected. The company refused halt production despite these warnings.
Three days after the explosion, the company called off the rescue efforts and had workers seal off the area where miners remained trapped to protect the remaining coal from the fire. 20 days after the fire started 13 miners emerged from another shaft, having survived by eating the lunches the miners had brought with them and a horse which they killed. Who knows how many more would have been able to escape had Courrières prioritized life over profits.
Sadly, the days when mining companies sacrifice lives so their CEOs can make exorbitant salaries are far from over.