Rajupalem Baryte Mines
Date of the Accident – 29.9.1957
Owner – Shri V. Subbiah
Number of persons killed – 11
Place – Cuddapah district-(Andhra Pradesh)
Baryte occurs in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh in the form of veins in shales and limestones. At Rajupalem, the vein varied in thickness from a few centimeters to a metre or more. There was a long chain of old excavations, 2.4 to 4.5 m wide, where a .vein of baryte, about 1 m thick, had been worked to a maximum depth of about 15 m. The vein lay under a soil cap of soft morrum about 1.2 m thick.
Mr. Subbiah had purchased on 14.9.1957 a plot of land on the extreme right of the chain and about 10 days after the purchase, he started working in a pit about 24 m long. The mine was worked without a manager. He had appointed two “maistries” who were literate and had some experience in working baryte pits in that locality. The “maistries” brought 40 to 50 persons including 15 women from neighboring villages. The labourers worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break for rest from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The pit had been worked for barely 5 days and about 5 tonnes of baryte had been collected on the surface when the accident took place.
On the day of the accident 40 persons including 12 women were engaged in digging and removing debris from inside the pit and separating baryte from the debris on the surface. The pit was 24 m long and 3 m wide with a maximum depth of 7.5 m. By digging the sides with crow-bars and picks, the vein of baryte had been exposed and the width of the pit at the bottom was 4.5 in to 6 m. No explosives had been used in the excavation work. The work was carried on upto 1 p.m. as usual. Soon after 3 p.m. work was resumed at the instance of the two maistries and 21 men went inside the pit. At about 4 p.m. a mass of morrum and weathered rock 9 m long, 1 m thick and 7 m deep collapsed. 18 men were buried beneath the fall. 11 men were killed on the spot and 2 were seriously injured. Immediately after the fall, an alarm was raised. All labourers and some men from the adjoining villages collected at the site and started rescue operations. 7 persons were extricated alive within a short time. Two dead bodies were recovered by 6 p.m. Further search was given up that evening because of darkness. Next morning recovery work was re-started at 5 a.m. and all the 9 dead bodies were recovered by 11 a.m.
The Inspector, who inquired into the accident, concluded that the accident had occurred because the sides of the excavation had not been made safe. Precautions required by Regulations 38 and 40 had not been taken to prevent the fall of sides. The mine owner and the two maistries were prosecuted for contravention of the provisions of the Indian Metalliferous Mines Regulations 38, 40 and 91.