Staying Safe in a Mine
- Grade: 3rd - 5th
Since the 1840s, Upper Peninsula mines fueled Michigan and the nation with iron ore. Almost all of the iron ore mined was converted into steel. In the beginning, miners blasted and broke up high-grade iron ore on the surface of the ground. Starting in the 1870s, mining iron ore moved to underground mine shafts. Underground mining continuing for almost a hundred years. Today, iron mining is at the surface, using heavy equipment in deep pits to mine low-grade ore. Each phase of iron mining had workplace dangers. Miners protected themselves with a variety of clothing and equipment. This is a visual timeline of personal protection equipment miners used.
Timeline of Mine Safety
Nineteenth century miners drilled into surface ore outcrops by hand. This process is known as “double jacking.” Very little protective equipment was used, although the miner holding the drill has a pipe between his teeth to protect them from the strong vibrations from the sledgehammer blows.
Surface miners in the 1860s used raw human and animal power to break up and transport surface outcrops of iron ore.
Underground miners in the 1890s pictured wearing soft helmets with candles for a light source. The candles slid into a ring on “sticking tommys,” which were metal devices designed to hold candles and hang on loops on the front of helmets.
Underground miners in the early 1900s drilling and moving ore. Soft leather helmets provided little protection against falling rock, but they did serve to fasten carbide lamps, which provided light in the underground mines.
Miners drilling into a drift of iron ore. Miners often wore high rubber boots to combat the wet conditions of underground mines due to ground water seepage into the drifts.
Safety and Rescue
After the passage of the Michigan Workmen’s Compensation Act in 1912, some mining companies developed safety and rescue teams in the event of a mining cave in or flood. Miners demonstrate the equipment used to for rescue operations. Mine safety crew with hard enclosed helmets designed for breathing in unsafe condition
Safety and Rescue Equipment
Mine safety crew with hard enclosed helmets designed for breathing in unsafe conditions.
Underground Mine Safety
Steel and timbers supported the roof of a drift where miners work. By the 1930s, most miners wore hard shelled helmets for protections. To see underground, they carried battery packs that powered a light on their helmets.
Modern Surface Mining
Modern surface miners operate heavy equipment to blast and transport ore in large open pits. Hard helmets, reflective vests for visibility, and steel toed boots are commonplace.