The Times West Virginian

Local News

November 15, 2013

Farmington mine disaster memorial service Sunday

Ceremony about sacrifices, changes made to mining laws in the United States

FAIRMONT — Wednesday, Nov. 20, is the 45th anniversary of the Farmington mine disaster, which claimed 78 lives.

The annual memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Farmington No. 9 Mine Memorial on Flat Run Road in Mannington.

On Nov. 20, 1968, at 5:30 a.m., an explosion occurred at Consol No. 9. Mine. Twenty-one miners were able to escape to the surface, but the remaining 78 miners were trapped. The disaster claimed the lives of those 78 miners.

Delegate Mike Caputo, the United Mine Workers of America international vice president for District 31, said that this disaster was different from the ones that had come before it.

“There were many mine disasters throughout the history of our state and country, but the No. 9 mine disaster was very significant because it was the first time a tragedy such as this was seen by the world,” Caputo said. “It was a new era of media. People watched this on their televisions all across the globe and saw how horrific it was.”

The disaster brought about big changes in mine safety regulations.

“The widows of these coal miners marched on Capitol Hill and insisted that others not have to go through the tragedy they had just endured,” Caputo said.

The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was passed in 1969. It included provisions to increase the frequency of inspections, amplified federal enforcement powers, and strengthened mine safety and health standards.

Joe Reynolds, UMW District 31 field representative, said the ceremony will reflect how the law changed mine worker safety for the better.

“The ceremony is about the sacrifice that the miners made, and the change in mining laws that made them much safer than they were prior to the explosion,” Reynolds said.

The keynote speaker at the memorial service is Cecil Roberts, the international president for UMW.

“He is a very strong advocate for health and safety,” Caputo said. “He truly believes in the memorial because we can’t allow ourselves to go back, and sometimes if we don’t talk about the past, no one knows how to avoid going back to the past.”

Caputo said that the tragedy of coal mine safety legislation is that major disasters always preceded reform.

“Every law we’ve had written to protect coal miners, we say that it’s been written in blood because someone would have to die, or a disaster would occur before someone would act,” Caputo said. “Our industry usually had to be forced to create a safer work environment for people.”

Eight years after the 1969 law, additional protections were created through the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. The law came after additional tragedies at Scotia Mine in Kentucky and the Sunshine silver mine in Idaho.

In 1977, there were 273 mining fatalities. In 2011, there were only 35.

Reynolds said it was the Farmington mine disaster that helped push through the reform necessary for the decrease in fatalities.

“Those guys left a legacy to every working miner after them. It empowered the individual miners with the right to keep things safe,” Reynolds said. “The 1969 law was the first law with real teeth in it. It was probably the largest, most significant mine safety legislation of the 21st century.”

The memorial ceremony, which the UMW has been conducting for more than 20 years, is something they intend to continue for years to come, Caputo said.

“We do it in honor of those 78 men who lost their lives in that tragedy,” Caputo said. “Because they lost their lives, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted, which has helped save thousands of lives since.”

The memorial service will take place at the Farmington No. 9 Mine Memorial on Flat Run Road in Mannington, just off Route 250. Caputo will act as master of ceremonies for the memorial service, which will begin at 1 p.m. and last around one hour. There will be signs directing people to the memorial, Caputo said.

Email Colleen S. Good at or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

Text Only
Local News
  • Farmington Poker Run Saturday

    The Town of Farmington Poker Run is scheduled for this Saturday.

    July 31, 2014

  • UMW Rally UPDATE: Roberts and Caputo arrested during UMW Pittsburgh rally

    After marching from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, around 15 United Mine Workers of America (UMW) leaders were arrested.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fairmont bank robbery suspect in custody

    Officers from the Fairmont Police Department and the West Virginia State Police responded to an armed robbery Thursday morning at WesBanco in Marion Square.

    July 31, 2014

  • UMW leaders at rally: ‘We will stand up and fight’

    Several United Mine Workers of America (UMW) leaders spoke at a labor rally in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

    July 31, 2014

  • image.jpg HAPPENING NOW: UMW's Roberts says EPA rules will 'devastate Appalachia'

    During a press conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center United Miner Workers of America (UMW) president Cecil Roberts talked about the reason why 5,000 miners and their families are protesting the EPA's Clean Power Plan.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Alva Groves Family -ts.jpg After 63 years, remains of Korean War veteran coming home

    After 63 years, the remains of a Korean War veteran are coming home.
    Those remains are of Cpl. Alva Clifford Groves, of Four States, who lost his life during the Korean War. Groves will be brought home to West Virginia on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • UMW to protest EPA Clean Power Plan

    Members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) will be gathering today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to protest the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
    Mike Caputo, vice president of UMW International District 31, will be one of the many Marion County and North Central West Virginia members participating in the rally and march at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

    July 31, 2014

  • Alecto executive to speak at chamber dinner

    The Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s 61st annual dinner is putting a spotlight on the future of Fairmont General Hospital.
    The keynote speaker for this year’s event, scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 13, is Mike Sarrao, executive vice president of Alecto Healthcare Services, the company that is in the process of purchasing Fairmont General Hospital.

    July 31, 2014

  • Korean War Veterans Memorial gets funds

    The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Marion County is closer to completion thanks to an allocation from the county commission.
    During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners passed a motion to allocate $5,000 to the memorial. The money came from the county’s coal severance tax fund.

    July 31, 2014

  • Fairmont man faces heroin charges

    A Fairmont man has been arrested on heroin charges.
    Tyrell Anthony Smith, 24, of Fairmont, was arrested Tuesday by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and has been charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin.

    July 31, 2014

Featured Ads
TWV Video Highlights
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads