Knowing about, Understanding and Tackling Risks in Mineral Fuel Mines (Bourgogne-Nivernais Mining Basin, 2nd Half of the 19th Century)

By Jean-Philippe Passaqui

Following a mining accident, the Mining Administration could be called in to inspect the site in order to understand the causes of the accident. Following an investigation, the Controller of Mines would write an accident report. These reports are essential sources for the history of mining techniques. Indeed, while visual representations of surface mines are abundant, they are very rare for underground mines. Yet accident reports depict the miners – be they pikemen, shaftmen, barrowmen, etc. – at work in the mine. These reports give detailed descriptions, not of operating methods, but of the daily practices of workers in the pit. The sources used in this article come from accident reports from the Chalon-sur-Saône mining district, and more particularly, the tar sand mines that grew in number in the Autun region between 1850 and 1914. These reports provide valuable information on the types of mining risks and the gradual improvement in prevention. Initially intended for the legal system, the accident report gained wider usefulness, because it then became the raw data for increasingly precise accident statistics for the mining district and then the national level. Reviewed and supplemented by Mining Corps engineers, these reports could become prevention tools, but not for all mining operations, notably the smallest ones.

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