Date of the Accident – 14.9.1983
Owner – Bharat Coking Coal Ltd.
Number of persons killed – 19
Place – Jharia Coalfield
The accident took place in XIV seam which is 9 m thick. In the area where the accident occurred, the seam had been developed in two sections. In the top section there was a sump of large capacity from which regular pumping was being done. Reckless drivage in the bottom section towards this sump resulted in collapse of the parting (between the sump in the top section and the drivage in the bottom section) and a large quantity of water came down and flooded all the dip workings drowning all the 19 persons who were employed there. After the accident it was found that the parting between the top and bottom sections in the affected area was only between 0.23 and 1.5 m.
The management was aware of inaccuracies in the plan and had made sporadic attempts to re-survey the XIV seam workings since 1979. The Inspector of Mines in his inspection report had also asked for the re-survey to be done. However, no serious effort was made to have the re-survey completed. This gross negligence in correcting the mine plan and non-compliance with statutory provisions while driving towards a large body of water resulted in the loss of 19 innocent lives.
Observations and recommendations of the Court of Inquiry
1) CMR-127(3) relates to drivages being made in the vicinity of workings which are disused or abandoned. It was argued on behalf of the management that the said sub-regulation was not applicable to the sump which could not be considered as a disused or abandoned working as water from the sump was being regularly used for stowing. The Court over-ruled this objection on the ground that as CMR-127 had been made for safety of workmen from underground inundation; it could not possibly intend to exclude this source of danger.
In this connection the Court recommended the following:
a) CMR-127(3) should be suitably amended to cover every working which contains or may contain water.
b) The word “disused” occurs at several places in the Regulations but has not been defined. “Disused working” may be defined as “every place in a mine which is not required to be examined under CMR- 113(1) and 113(3) (b)”.
c) “Adequate precautions” mentioned in CMR-127(2) should be spelt out in some detail so as to provide guidance in that respect.
2) DGMS should ensure compliance with CMR-60 which requires submission of two up-to-date copies of the working plans and sections every year. DGMS can permit the management by a suitable notification to collect the earlier set while submitting a fresh set of plans and sections, which in turn can be updated and submitted the following year.
3) As the mine-located survey staff is always likely to remain busy in routine jobs, it would appear desirable to have a separate set of staff at the Area level to carry out quarterly surveys and other check surveys. This system would involve keeping two sets of main mine plans, one at the mine and the other at the Area office. It should then be the responsibility of the Area survey team to carry out quarterly surveys and bring up-to-date the set of plans in their office. These up-to-date set of plans would then be exchanged with the set of plans kept at the mine office; the latter set would then be brought up-to-date in the next quarter and again exchanged. Such a system would have two advantages:-
a) The mine would always have plans which have been brought up-to-date at quarterly intervals; and
b) The work of the colliery surveyors would get checked every quarter by a separate survey group.
4) I.S.O.: In order to function effectively, the ISO must have some “teeth”. If it finds that a mine or a part is not safe in some specific regard, it should have the authority to intercede. Its role could also become more purposeful if it could be assigned the following functions:-
a) ISO could be asked to issue safety clearance before work in a new district is commenced. In this particular case of Hurriladih Colliery, if the start of the development in 29th level east area had been subjected to such a clearance, the lurking danger from water in the sump on the rise side would most probably have been specifically brought to the notice of the management.
b) Applications to DGMS for grant .of statutory permissions could be routed through ISO; this would provide another occasion for the safety implications of every new proposal to be subjected to a closer scrutiny.