Published: 24 Jul 2018
24 July 1979 brought a mine disaster to Appin on the NSW South Coast. An underground explosion, three kilometres from the pithead and 600 metres underground, killed 14 mineworkers. Ten of those died while having their mid-shift meal in the crib room. Some of the survivors made it to the surface but were severely burned. It was one of the worst disasters to hit NSW in the 20th Century.
At the time of the explosion there were 45 workers underground, including the Lodge President, Dave Kemp. Dave was one of the rescue workers who went back into the mine to recover the bodies. The Southern District Rescue Station Corps, and rescue teams from other collieries also joined in this grim task, "displaying the true meaning of comradeship in a tragic time of need", as observed the Central Council of the time.
The judicial inquiry that followed was led by Judge AJ Goran. He found serious communication problems at Appin, which was known to be a gassy mine. He found that the Mines Department had allowed a tolerance of a "continual breach of statutory requirements relating to gas". He consequently made a number of recommendations relating to gas safeguards, including monitoring and warning devices and ventilation. He also recommended the appointment of more local check inspectors.
Today we honour the memory of the fourteen mineworkers who died at Appin, working for coal. It's the human cost of coal which should never be forgotten.
10,000 people attended the memorial service at Appin showground.