Rocky Mountain mining didn’t get a huge kick off until 1859, when gold and silver were discovered in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado. This brought in an influx of miners seeking their fortunes in the rugged Wild West. Today, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah still excavate precious metals and gems but also include oil and gas, coal, bentonite, trona and more. The mines of the Rockies number in the hundreds and are part of the approximately 13,089 mines located across the United States, employing over 237,812 hardworking miners.
Monongah Mining accident circa 1907
Origins of National Miner’s Day
National Miner’s Day, celebrated every December 6th, marks the anniversary of the nation’s worst mining accident to date. In 1907, 362 miners, men, and boys were killed in an explosion at the Monongah Nos. 6 and 8 Coal Mines in Monongah, West Virginia.
Graves of Miners
“Congress reacted to the disaster at Monongah by passing and toughening mining laws,” Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) explains in an exhibit on mining disasters. “In 1910, following a decade in which the number of coal mine fatalities exceeded 2,000 annually, Congress established the Bureau of Mines as a new agency in the Department of the Interior. The Bureau was charged with the responsibility to conduct research and to reduce accidents in the coal mining industry.”
Since 1875 to present, where there have been five or more deaths linked to mine disasters, there have been over 729 deaths. In an effort to oversee the safety and health of all miners, the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 were created.
National Miner’s Day was founded to reflect the many sacrifices that miners have made over the years. We can show our appreciation for these hard-working people by remembering the ultimate sacrifice some have made.
Did You Know?
- The United States has the largest reserve of coal and the second biggest producer of gold and copper. The U.S. Export of Minerals accounts for nearly $6 billion a year.
- Wyoming is the most prolific coal-producing state in the nation (316 million short tons in 2017), producing over 41% of all coal in the U.S.
- The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine (est. 1890) is the largest active gold mine in Colorado, producing 451,000 ounces of gold annually.
- The average citizen uses 37 million pounds of metals, minerals, and fuel during a lifetime. This also includes 1.8 ounces of gold, 6 tons of aluminum, 1,000 pounds of lead and zinc. A newborn baby requires a lifetime of 1.3 million pounds of sand, stone, gravel, and cement along with 33,000 pounds of iron, 1,500 pounds of copper, and 28,200 pounds of salt.
- The U.S. is today’s largest producer of silica, salt, sulfur, phosphate, magnesium, and lithium.
- The investment in training, technology, and equipment has made America the safest mining industry in the world.