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Mr. SYMONS. June 20 to the 24th.
Mr. Symons. In another inspection there was fourteen-hundredths found at the face. In the initial inspection there was 4.49 methane in a bore hole, which proves there is methane in the bed of the hole.
Mr. WERDEL. Is it true in some instances there is never methane in a coal mine?
Mr. Symons. Do you mean in this mine here?
Mr. WERDEL. In any coal mine? You can always find traces of methane, can you not?
Mr. SYMONS. Not always.
Mr. WERDEL. What is the condition that you would call an explosive condition, the percentage of methane !
Mr. Symons. What do you mean, an accumulation? Mr. WERDEL. Yes. Mr. Symons. Five percent. It becomes hazardous sooner than that. The fact that we found one-tenth of 1 percent in the face of a working entry would be proof that if the ventilation were cut off for a continued period, it could grow in volume and strength until it would attain an explosive mixture.
Mr. KELLEY. I might interrupt. From your testimony there, it is cut off when the ventilating doors are left open.
Mr. SYMONS. Yes, definitely.
Mr. WERDEL. You do not know what the Ohio code requires under those circumstances ?
Mr. SYMONS. What do you mean?
Mr. WERDEL. What is the Ohio law in connection with ventilation and a condition such as you have found, one-tenth of 1 percent of methane?
Mr. SYMONS. The Ohio mine laws are in the process of being changed right now. I do not know what amount of air is required at the face of working entries now.
Mr. WERDEL. Are we to understand from the fact that you have not followed up, or have not received a communication from the Ohio authorities, that there is a bad feeling of some kind between the Federal Bureau of Mines and the proper Ohio authorities?
Mr. SYMONS. I would not say there was a bad feeling.
Mr. WERDEL. Under the law as it now exists, your responsibilities are to give advice, as I understand it.
Mr. SYMONS. That is right.
Mr. WERDEL, To the operators and to the Ohio authorities, and after having submitted these reports, you have not made any followup on them at all; is that right, other than to go back and inspect?
Mr. SYMONS. I think the fact that we inspected the mine in March of this year and again in June and in 1947, July, and then again in September, is proof that we are very much concerned and are following up, and are concerned about the condition of the mine. There has been correspondence on the condition of the mine from my office, as Mr. Mechling stated, with the chief of the Ohio Division of Mines.
Mr. WERDEL. That is all.
Mr. SYMONS. Another statement I might make in connection with this mine is the fact the fan is not always operating 24 hours a day. Whenever their substation is shut down the fan stops.
Mr. KELLEY. Are there any men in the mine at that time?
Mr. Symons. No; I think not, but they go in without a preshift inspection.
Mr. KELLEY. They do?
Mr. BAILEY. In that case then, if that fan were stopped, there could be an accumulation of methane gas, and if there was no preinspection before the men went in they could go in with a dangerous condition.
Mr. Symons. They go in with open lights. They go in with carbide lamps and smoke anywhere in the mine.
Mr. KELLEY. You stated a while ago that their hands were tied on account of the policy committee. What is the policy committee?
Mr. SYMONS. It is a committee of five men who determine the action and the conduct of the mine.
Mr. KELLEY. Those five men really correspond to a board of directors?
Mr. SYMONS. That is the way that I understand it. Mr. KELLEY. And they interfere with management; is that what Mr. SYMONS. I have that from the management, exactly that. Mr. KELLEY. If you had police authority as a Federal inspector, what would you do to that property in its present condition?
Mr. Symons. There is only one course of action left to take, and that is to stop it.
Mr. KELLEY. Do you have any statement to make, Mr. Kirk?
Mr. KIRK. I feel the same as Mr. Symons—the mine is in such shape that if we did not have any other course, we would just have to stop it.
Mr. KELLEY. Close it up?
Mr. KELLEY. Have you in your experience as an engineer come across any mines that are any worse or as bad as this one?
Mr. MECHLING. We consider that the worst mine in the State. However, we do have numerous mines, more or less the smaller mines, where similar conditions exist—not quite to the extent, probably, that they exist in this particular mine, and they do not involve the number of employees that are involved in this particular mine.
Mr. W'ERDEL. You have used the word “employees.” Do you know whether or not these men are employees or company owners?
Mr. MECHLING. I do not know. They are men who are working in that particular mine.
Mr. WERDEL. On what basis do you think a Federal bureau could close a mine in Ohio if they were coowners under the State law of Ohio.
Mr. MECHLING. I have no statement to make with regard to that.
Mr. WERDEL. I take it there must be some distinction in the law in the State of Ohio with regard to the operation by coowners as distinguished from the employer-employee relationship.
Mr. MECHLING. That is probably true.
Mr. BAILEY. The State bureau is represented, and they will develop that information.
Mr. Jacobs. You are an engineer?
Mr. JABOBs. You just know about the dangerous condition of the mine?
Mr. MECHLING. That is right.
Mr. PERKINS. Does Mr. Kirk have any supplemental statement to make, to be added to the statement of Mr. Symons as to the imminent danger that exists in this mine?
Mr. KIRK. No. I think that Mr.Symons has covered it thoroughly.
We will now hear from Mr. Walter W. Holt, president of the John M. Hirst Co.
TESTIMONY OF WALTER W. HOLT, PRESIDENT, JOHN M. HIRST CO.,
CLEVELAND, OHIO Mr. Holt. I really do not know where to begin. You gentlemen understand the set-up of our mine. It is not actually a cooperative mine. It is a partnership. Every person who works in our mne is a partner in that mine. He pays $100 when he goes into that mine when he starts to work. Then he pays so much out of the earnings he makes until he gets a maximum of $900, which makes him a full partner, That organization right now has approximately two hundred-andsome-odd members. Some of them are retired, and there are about 150 men actually working at that mine now. We have absolutely no employees.
Every man in that mine is a partner, and we determine the wages by the earnings of the mine.
The policy of that mine is set up by a mine committee which is elected, one a year, for a period of 5 years. They are the men who determine the policy of the mine—what shall be done with these reports is determined by that mine committee.
Mr. KELLEY. Has that mine committee turned down these recommendations?
Mr. Holt. They have gone along fairly reasonably on most of these things, but they do not consider that mine dangerous, and those men are practical miners and have been in that mine all their lives.
We have had the mine for only 25 years but some of those men have worked there for 40 years and they do not consider the situation as hazardous in that mine.
Mr. KELLEY. That is because they have become inured to the danger.
Mr. Holt. Well, I do not really think so. There are not very many men that do not place some value on their lives. Those men would not go into the mine if they figured that mine was as hazardous as Mr. Symons has said.
Mr. KELLEY. They have gone into other mines that were very hazardous.
Mr. Holt. They were probably forced into it. In our mine they are not. There is no man forced to do anything in our mine. Understand, these five men who constitute this committee are men who are working in that mine every day, the same as the other 145 men are.
They do not sit on the outside, or anything; they are in there actually with those men working, and if a hazardous condition existed I do not believe those men, themselves, would go in that mine. There is not anything to force them to go in-only to make a living.
Mr. KELLEY. They have money invested in it. They want to protect their interests?
Mr. Holt. We pay no dividends or anything and all the money that the mine earns is distributed as earnings at the mine.
Mr. KELLEY. You have to have some working capital.
Mr. Holt. We have a little working capital, a few thousand dollars worth of capital. I imagine it may be $25,000, somewhere along there. When we are short of money we can get some from our broker, and we pay it back.
Mr. KELLEY. It looks to me from what you say those men are partners.
Mr. HOLT. That is right.
Mr. KELLEY. They are willing to take a chance and not spend any more money than they have to in order to increase their income, and they flirt with danger in order to do that.
Mr. Holt. You might have something there, but out of the 150 men I do not believe you could find that many men in agreement if there was actually danger there. You might find a dozen men at that mine who, as you say, would take a chance, but in a group that large I do not believe that you would.
Mr. KELLEY. I do not see how you could say the mine is not dangerous when it is dusty and no provision is made for the settling of the dust. It is permeated with rock dust and there is gas, and you certainly use black powder which in itself is dangerous. Does not the law of Ohio forbid that?
Mr. Hout. The amount of black powder used in that mine was not told hereby Mr. Symons. Those men use only about a half pound of powder as a maximum shot in that mine. That is not any amount of powder. That is not like a coal mine where you would be shooting 3 or 4 pounds of powder at one shot. There is a lot of difference. He said that we use metal tamping bars. We do, but those are copper tamping bars. They have copper on the end of them. Understand, they are a metal bar, and all that, but it is copper and it is not steel. It does not strike fire.
Mr. KELLEY. How about the storage of all this powder in the mine?
Mr. Holt. This powder is stored in wooden boxes. Each individual has not only the wooden box that it comes in, it is stored in a wooden box in addition to that, which is furnished to these men. The powder is perfectly safe.
Mr. KELLEY. You might think so.
Mr. Hout. The State of Ohio must think so. The State of Ohio authorizes that.
Mr. McCONNELL. How many explosions have you had during the 25 years?
Mr. Holt. I have been around that mine 35 years, and there has never been an explosion in that mine.
Mr. McCONNELL. Never been an explosion ?
Mr. Holt. There has never been an explosion in that mine, to my knowledge at any time, minor or major.
Mr. BAILEY. You speak of the Ohio Bureau of Mines authorizing the operation of the mine under those conditions. How often do they inspect the mines?
Mr. Holt. I believe twice a year. I would not be certain on that.
Mr. BAILEY. To what extent do their findings compare with the Federal reports? You get the Federal reports?
Mr. HOLT. We get the Federal reports. I would not want to misquote them, but they suggest that we keep the mine clean and eliminate the dust. We are endeavoring to clean the mine up and take the dust out, and have been.
Mr. BAILEY. If you did that, the Federal inspectors would not find it when they came along.
Mr. Houř. Yes. You could go in even a rock-dusted mine and you can gather up an explosive mixture if you looked in the right place for it. It is there somewhere.
Mr. KELLEY. It would be isolated so that it would not be dangerous? Mr. Holt. But if you were particularly looking for it I believe you could find it.
Mr. Jacobs. I would like to have you explain more what you mean when you say that if you were looking for it you would find it.
Mr. Hout. There are probably places in that mine where you could gather an explosive mixture. În any mine you could do that. I venture to say any mine which was already rock-dusted and in compliance with the Federal inspectors, I could still go into that mine and if I were particularly looking for an explosive mixture I could find it.
Mr. Jacobs. In what type of place would that beWould it be in some crevice somewhere?
Mr. Hout. Sure.
Mr. Jacobs. When these inspectors inspected your mine were you present?
Mr. Hour. I was not present. They go into the mine, and I am very seldom in the mine.
Mr. JACOBS. You are not in the mine yourself?
Mr. Jacobs. You think they might have gone in and used these instruments and picked it up in some isolated case ?
Mr. Holt. I do not mean to insinuate that they did but I say that it could be done. These fellows are perfect gentlemen, and I would not accuse them of any such action.
Mr. JACOBS. They appear to be.
Mr. JACOBs. Do you think the testimony they have given here with reference to what they found in the mine, that is, the percentage of gas and the dust and the condition of the dust is accurate?
Mr. HOLT. As I understand it, if my memory is correct, there is a difference between their dust analysis, figuring the explosive mixture, and the analysis made by the State men. They do not just jibe.
Mr. Jacobs. Is that a wide difference?
Mr. Holt. Well, it is wide enough probably that it would make the difference between having rock dust and no rock dust.
Mr. Jacobs. How about the conclusion that they and the State inspectors came to with reference to the
Mr. HOLT. Well, the State of Ohio does not consider one-tenth of one per cent gas an explosive mixture in a coal mine..