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Mr. Arthur H. Stokes' Report.
Reports on the Inspection of Mines and Quarries in the Midland District, comprising the counties of Bedford, Berks, Buckingham, Cambridge, Derby, Hertford, Huntingdon, Leicester, Middlesex, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Rutland, and Warwick for the Year ending 31st December 1906.-By Arthur H. Stokes, F.G.S.
Green Hill, Derby,
4th March 1907.
I HAVE the honour to submit to you the following Reports upon the work of inspection of mines and quarries, and of my proceedings as Inspector of Mines in charge of the Midland District, during the year 1906. The first Report deals with the administration of the Coal Mines Regulation Acts and the mines connected therewith. The second Report includes mines other than those under the Coal Mines Acts, and the third Report relates to Quarries and the various minerals obtained from open workings :— Each report is divided into the following sections :
Section I. Persons Employed.
II. Output of Mineral.
Three Appendices are added (1) of list of fatal accidents; (2) list of prosecutions; (3) plans of abandoned mines.
During the year the weight of coal brought to the surface has exceeded all previous records. Though the year has not seen any new developments started, yet it is not for want of unexplored areas, for there are still large tracts of coal measures waiting for the capitalist to explore. There have been some record-breaking outputs of coal raised in one day. At one mine in Nottinghamshire during a twelve-hour shift in December a total of 3,575 tons was brought to the surface.
It is interesting to study the steady increase in the output of coal in this district during the last 30 years, and considering the unworked seams still waiting to be developed, it would jeopardise the reputation of any mining expert to attempt to predict what will be the maximum limit in the production of coal in the future. The enormous yearly drain upon nature's stores might lead us to think that our maximum would soon be reached, but at present there are no indications of exhaustion, and when we consider the enormous area of untouched coal measures, we appear justified in eliminating all doubt from an expression of opinion that the supply will be equal to the demand for many years to come.
It is unfortunate that the increased output has been accompanied by an increased number of deaths, but the increase of deaths is proportionately less than the increased output, when compared with the previous year, for the output shows an increase of 7 per cent., whereas the increase of deaths is only 4 per cent., or taking the 1905 figures as 350,526 tons raised per life lost, the result for 1906 is 361,185 tons raised per life lost.
REPORT UNDER THE COAL MINES REGULATION ACTS.
The total number of persons employed in and about the mines during the year was 106,814, or 3,332 more than in the previous year, an unusually large increase of 34 per cent. when compared with the year 1905.
Underground. There was an increase of 2,120 in the number of male persons above 16 years and of 368 in the youths between 13 and 16 years of age. I hope that the system now adopted at many mines of employing boys, under 14 years of age, for a year or more on the screens before taking them into the mine may be largely extended, for it allows the young boys to become accustomed to the manipulation of tubs and coal, before entering the mine to work with artificial light.
Above ground.-The workers above ground were 844 more than in the previous year, there being an increase in all the divisions of age, and especially a notable increase of 222 boys under 14 years old. This may be due in a large measure to the preliminary training given to such boys before going below ground.
The quantity of mineral wrought during the year was 33,590,230 tons, an increase of 2,393,439 tons when compared with the previous year.
There is a record output of coal, the total quantity for the first time in the history of the district exceeding thirty-three million tons (33,235,088 tons). Many of the mines were working short time during the summer, but the demand for coal was materially increased at the close of the year, and the result is an output exceeding all past records.
The county of Nottingham shows the greatest increase, and this has been obtained with 1,088 more persons employed below ground as compared with the previous year.
Coal. The actual figures with respect to coal are as follows:-Nottinghamshire, 1,105,499 tons increase; Derbyshire, 883,733 tons increase; Warwickshire, 261,282 tons increase; and Leicestershire, 28,356 tons increase, or a total increase of 2,278,870 tons of coal output for the year.
The only mines raising ironstone alone are those in Northamptonshire, the ironstone raised in the other counties is that obtained in connection with the working of the coal.
I have again obtained information with respect to the use of coal-cutters during the year (see Table No. 4). I have so fully written upon this matter in my previous reports that there is little more at present to be said with respect to such machines.
In dealing with the work of coal-cutters for the past year, the first consideration is the extent of the increase or decrease in the use of the machines, and I regret that so little progress has been made in the application of mechanical power for such laborious work as "holing" the coal. There was an increase of two machines in the working face, and whereas in 1905 there was an average of 10,500 tons cut for each machine, in 1906
the average was 12,051 tons per machine, showing, I presume, that the machines had made more time and done more under-cutting.
In the heading machines there was an increase of eight machines, and in this case the cutters appear to have done about the same amount of work per machine as in the previous year.
Coal-cutters are of considerable value in thin seams, but the economy in the use of such machines is at present small, and offers little inducement to resort to a radical change in the operation of coal-cutting.
In thin seams the working face is low and gives considerable trouble in moving and working cumbrous machinery, and with all the advantages of a larger proportion of round coal, the number of cutters used has not been large, and their general adoption advances very slowly. In some cases machines have been introduced and have not proved a commercial success. In other cases their introduction has given rise to difficulty with the workmen in the revision of contract price for getting the coal, but probably one of the drawbacks is the considerable outlay required in providing motive power to drive the machines. The actual cost of conversion of hand holing to machine holing, apart from the question of waste, is perhaps one of the cogent reasons against a more general increase in the use of such machines; in many cases it would necessitate the erection of a special motive power, but as electricity is becoming largely adopted for various purposes in and about a mine, the obstacle of motive power may to a large extent disappear, for the generating plant can be used for so many purposes connected with colliery work that the testing of coal-cutters in a seam will be simply the addition of a cable for carrying the current, and if not a success, the generator will still be available for other purposes.
With regard to the coal-cutter itself, the mining and mechanical engineers have yet considerable cause for devoting much attention to important constructive details and method of design. The association of theory and practice is the only method by which the experimental engineering of coal-cutters can proceed on safe and fruitful lines. The structural characteristic of the present machine is strength and speed, without a wasteful proportion of material, but it is open to question whether these two properties, no doubt the correct union for thick seams, cannot be maintained, and yet have a machine, smaller in size, slower in work, but still a machine which may be found to more nearly fulfil the requirements of a thin seam, and yield results which would commend it for adoption in the thinnest of the working seams of coal.
There were 93 deaths from accidents during the year, an increase of four as compared with the previous year. There was one death due to an explosion of fire-damp, and this might have been prevented with a little foresight on the part of the officials of the mine. The deaths from falls are five less, but they are still very heavy. There is a large increase in the deaths from trams and tubs, and in looking over the circumstances under which such deaths have occurred, I fail to find any particular cause, and with this class of work the youngest youths commence their training down a mine.
Although the deaths are four more than in the previous year, yet owing to the great increase in the mineral output, the number of tons raised per life lost for the year is greater, for whereas in 1905 the quantity raised per life lost was 350,526 tons, in 1906 the quantity was 361,185 tons.
Some accidents are due to imperfection in our mining knowledge, but unfortunately a number are due to carelessness or negligence in the observance of rules, and the miner who is constantly dealing with the dangers of the mine becomes familiar with such danger and does not give the continued attention necessary for his safety. The dangers inherent to the coal face are varying from hour to hour, and however much official supervision may be given there yet remains a wide scope for the exercise of skill and judgment on the part of the miner in charge. There is no practical method of systematic timbering which will free mining from accidents from falls of roof and side, but much yet remains to be done to lessen the great death-rate from this cause. The security of the working face must rest with the miner who gets the coal, and the best system must be supported by the skill and intelligence of an experienced man who will carry out the rules first, and then introduce supplementary supports to meet special dangers.
A large number of non-fatal accidents have been reported, but although the numbers are recorded in the following tables, their statistical value is worthless under the system of reporting in force during the year. An Act has been passed which will, I hope, place the reporting upon a more complete and uniform system, and next year the statistics should be reliable and uniformly correct.