Anniversary of tragedy at Box Flat, 1972

Published: 31 Jul 2017

On 31 July 1972, a fire followed by an explosion at Box Flat in the Ipswich area of Queensland killed 17 mineworkers and severely injured three others. It was the worst ever industrial disaster to hit the Ipswich area.

At about 6pm on Sunday 30 July 1972, signs were detected of a fire underground. A team went underground to check it. A second team went into the mine some hours later to try to make temporary seals. It was then that a tremendous explosion shattered the mine.

Of the seventeen men who were killed, seven of them were members of the rescue squad that had been called to the mine when the fire was detected.

In the face of the danger of further explosions arising from the raging fire, the grim decision was made to seal the mine, leaving fourteen of the victims entombed.

A funeral service was held at the top of the mine.

National leaders of the then Miners Federation (Evan Phillips and Bob Cram) issued a statement, reflecting that “the coal mining industry has been subject to revolutionary technological changes, and regulations have followed behind thee changes. The task is to ensure that there are no long gaps between these technological changes and the necessary legislation to safeguard the men.”

Queensland miners president Digger Murphy was a panel member on the board of inquiry.

Consequent changes to Legislation and Regulations were:

  • The introduction of personal filter self rescuers for all underground miners
  • The introduction of Gas Chromatographs on the surface of all underground mines for the analysis of mine gas samples
  • Modern fire fighting equipment to be available underground
  • Upgrading of Mine Managers’ qualifications
  • Improved stone dust legislative requirements

We will never forget the men who died at Box Flat. May they Rest In Peace.