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SOME EXAMPLES OF IMMINENT DANGERS THAT MAY BE ENCOUNTERED IN
UNDERGROUND COAL MINES 1. Loose, unsupported roof or rib where men work or travel. 2. The use of black blasting powder. 3. Dangerous accumulations of methane in or adjacent to live workings.
4. Inadequate applications of rock dust in live workings of bituminous-coal mines on the surfaces that are not naturally wet.
5. Lack of adequate safety catches on cages used for transporting men.
Mr. KELLEY. I have no more. So that concludes our work for today.
Thank you very much, Mr. Ankeny. I am sorry I kept you waiting so long
Mr. ANKENY. That is perfectly all right.
Mr. KELLEY. Mr. Perkins wishes to insert in the record also a statement of Driscoll O. Scanlan before the legislature committee at Centralia, Ili.
(The statement referred to is as follows:)
STATEMENT OF Driscoll 0. SCANLAN BEFORE LEGISLATURE COMMITTEE AT
CENTRALIA, ILL., APRIL 24, 1947 Gentlemen, I consider this investigating committee the most important; it is from this committee that the people of Illinois, and especially the miners and their families will derive the most benefits by you gentlemen conveying back to the General Assembly of Illinois what is necessary in line of adequate laws.
I have prepared this statement in order to give you gentlemen a comprehensive report of the facts leading up to this disaster; also information on the life of an honest inspector, and some of the abuses he is subject to.
I have now had time to get a little rest and collect myself; have gone through my files and records, and believe I will make a better witness than I did before the other committees. When required to appear before the other State committee I had just put in about 112 hours of the most arduous work and heart-breaking experience of my life with only 9 hours' sleep. I knew personally every miner in this mine. I helped recover bodies of older men that knew me from a small bor, of younger men that I had gone to school with.
There is no committee, be it the Governor's, or what not, that is going to make the families of the men killed in this explosion, the survivors of the explosion, or the miners in the other mines in my district believe that I am in any way responsible for this disaster. They all knew, and know, that I had done everything in my power to prevent this disaster. And had my recommendations been complied with, and had not the director and mining board overruled and orerridden me roughshod, these miners would be alive today. Some people not acquainted with this situation from reading some of the newspapers and the report of the Governor's committee, may have the opinion that I placed my job above that of the lives of the miners. Nothing could be further from the truth and fact. And I want to inform the public right now, that everyone involved in this dis aster had the privilege of having a representative on this Governor's committee except myself. While it is a fact that I could not enforce the law and stay on the job under Medill, I want to say right now, if quitting my job would have saved one life, I would have been more than glad to have done it.
When Medill and the mining board whipped me and the Centralia Coal Co. whipped the miners and hired their leader and local union president away from them and gave him a inh horning. I was ready to quit my job. I went to see Mr. Tom Bush, a member of the pit committee, and told him that I thought that I might just as well resign, as it did not seem that I could do anything to help them, as the clique overruled me and that they would make life miserable for me. This old gentleman's reply was something like this: "Scanlan, you are the only friend
we have to come around this mine and if you can possibly stay on the job, please do so." He said, "Please stay on and do what you can for us. You do manage to get something out of the company once in a while. We would rather have a friend as an inspector, even if he cannot do anything for us, than to have some inspector who is not our friend; maybe some day you will be able to do something for us." And that was the main reason I stayed on the job and did not resign, I am convinced now that Mr. Bush had a feeling that some day this disaster would occur and when it did, if I was still on the job, there would be no whitewash of the disaster.
In order to give you gentlemen an idea of the feeling of the miners, please permit me to quote the following from a letter I received from out of my district, postmarked Du Quoin, I., April 4, 1947. “With deep regret, I have kept up with the Wamac mine disaster. Also noted the humanitarian part and heroic stand you took in exposing those who were guilty of violating not only the mining law, but of every code where decent manhood was involved. And, furthermore, every man I have talked to—and that has been several—they all speak of you in the highest terms. And, as for me, I am glad I can say I worked in a mine under your inspection; and I wish there were more like you. * So, Driscoll, stay right in there and continue to expose those rats wherever you catch them, as the common miners need more men like you."
The Governor's committee said that I should have closed the mine down, even if it meant the quitting of my job. What point would I have gained by shutting this mine down and then quitting? The director would have reopened the mine, another inspector would have been appointed, more care would have been taken in the selection of my successor, there would have been only one inspection report on the bulletin board for the scrutiny of the newspapermen and it probably would not have been too actual; no one would have talked to the newspapermen and a real whitewash job could have been done. At the time of this explosion the mine was 10 times cleaner that it was at the time the Commission inspected it and permitted it to continue operating. If the dust had been ignited at the time of the inspection by the Commission, the ventilating fan and the tipple would have been demolished.
No one knows any better than the coal-mine members of the Governor's committee that the inspectors were only permitted to exercise what authority some of the major coal companies, the director, and the mining board wanted them to have. Section 1, paragraph B, pages 7 and 8 of the general mining law reads in part as follows: "Said board also shall control and direct the State mine inspectors hereinafter provided for, in the discharge of their duties, and shall have the power, and shall in person and through the State mine inspectors see that all the provisions of the State mining laws are enforced.” On this last sentence the mining board has always taken the position that they are the boss. This is common knowledge in the coal industry of Illinois. All appeals from the inspectors' recommendations are taken to the director and mining board. They have always been the boss ; this is an acknowledged fact in the industry.
Now, gentlemen, in order to give you an idea of the interlinking procedure of the coal companies and the department, please permit me to read the following from an old timer in this inspection game.
"MY DEAR DRISCOLL: As one who has been through the mill, I sincerely sympathize with you at this distressful time. The inspector with the responsibility on him sets his course to conscientiously carry out his duties, then the pressure is on, and the telephone calls from the heads of the companies to the department in Springfield, and then the modifications or the promises, etc., and then the accident happens and the inspector is the goat."
I have always tried to take care of the miners in my district, and went as far as I was permitted to go by the director. While trying to take care of the miners, I have also tried to take care of myself, so I could not be made the goat in case of a disaster of this kind, so always wrote the actual conditions of the mines as I found them, showing no partiality to either the coal company or miners, writing both up when I found them violating the law.
It was reports of this kind that the director did not like. I remember on March 13, 1946, when the director called me to Springfield and severely reprimanded me for my inspection report of March 6 and 7, 1946. He told me that he was surprised that I would again make these recommendations after the commission and the mining board had found my recommendations of Decmber 13 and 14, 1945, unfounded. He said that “those damned Hunks” would not know the condition of their mine if it would not be for me writing it up and calling it to their attention. Said my reports looked like a “dam Federal inspector's report" and if I wanted to write those kind of reports I should have gone with the United States Bureau of Mines. He told me if I expected to stay in the department I would have to cut the size of my reports down and omit some of the things I was reporting. He also told me that I had “a hell of a lot of ability, but no dam sense of balance;' that I was all for the miners. The letter of the miners of March 3, 1946, to the Governor, with a memorandum from Mr. Chapman, was on his desk. He was plenty angry about this letter and handed it over to me to read. The miners had included a picture of a widow and several orphans of a recent mine disaster that they had clipped from the United Mine Workers Journal. Medili gave it a pitch to the side and said, "And they send such rot as this along."
As has been brought out by the other investigating committee, the director's reply to Mr. Chapman was: “The complaint sounds a good deal worse than it really is. The present condition at the mine is not any different than it has been during the past 10 or 15 years, etc." So it can readily be understood that no little, lone inspector out in the field had a chance against the big boys in Springfield when they felt like this about the miners and the inspector. When I left the office Medill said, "I think you now know what kind of reports I want."
On December 13 and 14, 1945, when I inspected this mine, I found it had again been permitted to get in a deplorable condition. The dust from the haulage operations over extremely dirty roads, and from cutting and loading operations were presenting a very serious explosion hazard and I made the necessary recommendations to eliminate this explosion hazard and forwarded the recommendations on to the director. On December 20 Medill called me on the phone and told me to come into Springfield the next morning and to meet Benn Schull, of Terre Haute, Ind., a member of the mining board, in the Leland Hotel at 9 a. m. After discussing my recommendations with Mr. Schull, who told me I had no legal right to make hardly any of the recommendations, we went over to the office of the department, where the mining board was to meet. I stayed around the office all day while the board was in session, but was never permitted to appear before the board to tell them the conditions of the mine. When the board adjourned, Medill came to me and said that they had appointed a commission to inspect the mine and for me to stay out of the picture and away from the mine while the commission was at the mine. I tried to tell him the conditions of the mine and told him I should be permitted to shut the mine down until they complied with my recommendations. He said the commission and board would decide that. I then told him I thought all members of the commission should visit the 13 and 14 north off 1 west (as I had some confidence in Mr. Reak and did not want him to miss this section). Medill told me when I got home to call Bob Weir and make the suggestion to him. When I called Weir he could hardly hear me over the phone, so told me to meet the commission at the hotel in Centralia. When I went to the hotel in Centralia I found that two of the original members of the commission had become ill and were not there. The commission consisted of Robert Weir, Murrell Reak, Charles Blakeney, John Golden, and Benn Schull, who had come over from Terre Haute, Ind., to replace Mr. Gill.
The commission had my inspection report and recommendations. Mr. Weir read the entire report to the commission to acquaint them with it; Benn Schull again taking the position that I had no legal right to make hardly any of the recommendations and said that I was trying to tell the management how to run their mine. Schull and I entered into quite an argument. Whenever he would refer to the miners, it was "the
-s this and the
s that," instead of referring to them as the men or miners. I was talking to Mr. Niermann shortly after the commission had made the mine; he said, “You know one of those commissioners was standing out on the entry and noticed the good air traveling down the entry and he said, 'You know these
-s here don't know what they want; you got enough air here to blow them out of the mine.' " I said to Niermann, “I know who said that; that was Benn Schull.” He looked astonished when I told him so quickly who had made the nasty remark. I then told him that in the conversations that I had with Schull he always referred to the miners as
I knew after my discussion with the commission in the hotel that they were under definite orders to find my recommendations and the charges of the miners against the mine manager and superintendent as unfounded. I had told Schull that the mine manager hardly ever left the shaft bottom and the miners were complaining about it; in fact, the miners were telling me that they see me in
side more than they did their mine manager. Schull said if the mine manager had assistants inside he did not have to go inside. I learned from the miners that the inspection of the commission was a real sham. One old miner told me that he had worked in the mines for more than 45 years and that it was the rottenest deal he had ever seen pulled. They absolutely ignored the miners and their officers, did not even talk to the officers of the local union, did not inspect all of the mine, missed the 21 and 22 south off of 4 west entirely. This was one of the dirtiest and dustiest and poorest-ventilated sections of the mine. They rode out in a car instead of walking out the main line baulage road and the dirty haulage roads were one of the main complaints.
It hurt me to get a rotten deal like this out of a couple of fellow inspectors, so the first time after the commission's inspection that I saw Charles Blakeney, the inspector from the Danville district, I jumped him about the rotten deal; his reply to me was, “The mine suited me all right.” His attitude was, I don't give a damn what happens to your miners. When I jumped John Golden, his reply was, “I have got mines in my district just as bad. I could make out big, long reports, too; I see a lot of things in the mines that I don't report. You know, after all, the operators are the director and if you want to stay on the job you had better do what the operators want you to do."
This disaster could have happened in most any district in the State. You need no more proof than the fact that the Federal Coal Mines Administrator has shut down a number of Illinois mines, including mines of two members of the Governor's committee, and that the State inspectors have shut down a large number of mines since being given the authority and permission to do so. I have had miners from outside of my district tell me they feared for their lives; that their mines were also in deplorable condition,
We have heard a lot about rock dusting since this disaster. Now let's see just what the department has done about rock dusting in this State. The rock-dust law, while inadequate, has been on the books since July 1941; rock dusting was to start in July 1941, and be completed by July 1, 1942. Let's turn to pages 57 to 62 of the annual coal report for 1945, issued by the department. At the top of the page in the right-hand column is the question: Is mine rock dusted? Let's turn to the counties adjacent to my district. Take Madison County, six mines and only one rock-dusted. St. Clair County, with 15 underground mines, and only 3 have done any rock dusting. Perry and Randolph Counties, with 10 underground mines, and only 1 rock dusted. And these operators have been brazen enough to report this to the director, and still the director and mining board did nothing about it. And they say, we depend on the inspector. It's the same old story, trying to make the inspector the goat. In this case, I think their own publication is enough to condemn them. I am sure you gentlemen can see what a job I had on my hands trying to get the mines in my district rock-dusted, when the department was doing nothing about getting the mines rock-dusted in the counties adjacent to my district. On one occasion, when I requested Superintendent Niermann to do some rock dusting, his reply was, "I was just over in St. Clair County and they don't do any rock dusting over there.” I have been told that same thing a number of times at every mine in my district, with the exception of the Consolidated Coal Co. at Nason. But in spite of this, I have succeeded in getting some rock dust in some form in every mine in my district. And I might add that the department has never furnished us with equipment to take dust samples. If you gentlemen will check through the coal report you will notice that most of these mines reporting no rock dusting have been shut down by the department since these 111 men have been killed here in Centralia. We have known for a long time the benefits of rock dusting coal mines, but Illinois did nothing about requiring rock dusting until 1941, when the present law was passed and then the department did nothing about enforcing it. When you gentlemen go back to Springfield, go over to the department and check through the inspection reports of the various mines. You will notice that I hardly ever missed recommending adequate rock dusting in the inspection of all of my mines. When I recommend adequate rock dusting am asking for more than the law requires. Have you gentlemen of the general assembly ever been asked by the director or mining board to pass an adequate rock-dusting law in Illinois? I think not. They were not very interested in saving lives.
On March 14, 1945, at a hotel in Belleville, I begged Medill to permit me to shut this mine down. I told him that the mine was in such a dirty, dusty, and hazardous condition that if the dust became ignited, a dust explosion would spread through the entire mine and probably kill every man in the mine. Medill's reply to me was, “We will just have to take that chance." On April 10 or 11, 1947, Inspector Fred Lippert, of the Belleville district, told the press the following: "Since the Centralia mine disaster, the inspectors have been ordered to enforce the State mine laws. We're going to try to prevent more dust explosions like the one there. Under Medill the rock dusting and other laws were not enforced. Enforcement is going to be rigid from now on."
After the commission had made the mine and I was given to understand that the Centralia Coal Co. was going to be permitted to do as they pleased, there was nothing I could do in the way of enforcement. It resulted down to getting what I could by persuasion, and from the help of the Federal inspector and the men through their contract. We were all after sprinklers on the cutting and loading equipment and the company had told all of us that they had pipe ordered to install the sprinklers.
At the time of the explosion there would not have been a chance in the world to get the permission of the director or mining board to shut this mine down, as it was 10 times cleaner on my inspection the week before the explosion than it was when the commission inspected it. On my inspection on March 18 and 19, 1947, I found the mine in better condition than I had found it in a long time. Since the commission had inspected the mine, the 15, 16, 17 north oif 1 west had been abandoned and seals erected across the mouth of these entries. The 15 north off of 4 west had been abandoned as a haulage and this eliminated a real dust hazard; it had also been rock-dusted shortly before abandonment and the night foreman was using it part of the time to dump water on from the sumps along the 4 west. The 18 north off of 4 west had been abandoned as a haulage, eliminating another dust hazard.
At the time the commission inspected the mine most of the coal was pulled over the 4 west and it was in a terrible condition. On March 18 and 19, 1947, about half of the coal was being pulled over the 1 west. This track had been laid on a surveyor's level and there was practically no coal spillage on this haulage. There had been considerable road cleaning done on 4 west and down into 24 south off of 4 west and some sprinkling. The 21 and 22 south off of 4 west had recently been abandoned ; this eliminated the most harzardous section of the mine; it was about 90 rooms deep, had been worked all the way in by trackless mining, was the dustiest in the mine and inadequately ventilated. This is the section that the commission failed to inspect when they made the mine.
I inspected the mine on March 18 and 19, 1947, in company with Federal Inspector Frank Perz, Assistant Mine Manager Harry Berger, and Paul Comper, a member of the safety committee. After making the mine we had a long conference with Mine Manager Brown at the underground machine shop. I had several times previous to this inspection requested Brown to spend less time on the shaft bottom and more time in the inside workings. This time I told him I considered the new face boss at the head of the 1 and 2 west incompetent; he was a very nice man, very conscientious, but had no technical training and was absolutely lost on his ventilation. Perz and I spent an hour or more with him and he was still confused when we left him. I told Brown that I wanted him to go into this 1 and 2 west section and stay with this face boss until he fully understood his ventilation and other duties. I told him that now was the time to make the right kind of a boss out of this fellow before he got off on the wrong track. I also told Brown that they must get busy and advance their rock-dusting. He asked us if we had seen the pile of rock dust down at the overcast and said they were going to rock dust right away. I told him where his rirty roads were, ordered them cleaned; told him his steel water tank for sprinkling was setting in the 4 east in the same position it was on my previous inspection; ordered him to get it out of there and put it into service and to immediately sprinkle 18 and 19 north off 1 west and other dusty haulage roads. (They also have a wooden water box for sprinkling. The night foreman was using it to remove the water from the sumps along 4 west, which he used to sprinkle along 4 west and 15 north.)
When we went to the surface we had a long conference with General Superintendent Johnson and Superintendent Niermann. Perz was getting definite answers from Johnson on what they were going to do about complying with the safety code. We told Johnson and Niermann the same things we had told Brown; and also that we were not satisfied with Brown staying on the bottom all the time and not visiting the working sections. Johnson and Niermann told us they had pipe ordered for the installaiton of a sprinkling system, were on a deal for closed cap lamps and assured us our recommendations would be complied with. I expected rock dusting and road cleaning to be done over the week end. Have been informed that some work was done on my recommendations pertaining to ventilation.