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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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26361. Do you consider, taking them all round, that your
examinations are more satisfactory than ours for first-class
certificates 7 — I should not be inclined to say that they
are more satisfactory. I say that they are at least as
satisfactory and as severe.

26362. What are the particular points to which you
desire to call attention with regard to these examinations 7
— Our case is very concisely put in the papers before you,
and, really, I have very little to add to that.

26363-4. To the papers that are now before us 7— Yes,
but I am here to answer any questions you may ask me.

26366. This letter of the 10th December, 1903, signed
by E. F. Pittman, Under-Secretary of the Chief Secretary's
Department, Sydney, states that their Coal Mines Regula-
tion Act of 1902 is almost a copy of the Imperial Act, 1887,
and that the qualifications required to enable mining men
to obtain certificates of competency or of service are in
e£fect practically the same as those demanded in Great
Britain 7 — Quite so. I do not know whether you have
any of our Blue-books before you I have the last one here
in which the questions put to the candidates are given,
and that will give you a fair idea of the nature of the

26366. Is it your point that these Colonial examinations
may be taken in England as being equivalent to our
examinations 7 — Yes.

26367. That is what you would like to suggest to us 7—

26368. That anybody who had a first-class certificate in
Sydney ought to be treated as if he had a first-class certifi-
cate here 7 — Quite so ; we maintain that the opportunities
for gaining experience are as varied as you will find in the
British coalfields, and the examinations are quite as stiff.

26369. I understood you to suggest to us, supposing a
man begins his mining experience either in England or
S3rdney and goes from Ibigland to Sydney or Sydney to
England, that the experience in England should be taken
into account or is taken into account in S3rdney, and that
similarly the experience he has had in Sydney should be
taken into account when he comes to England 7 — Yes.

26370. What happens now supposing a man goes to you
from England with a certificate that he has worked under-
ground for two years and had practical experience in
underground mining for two years ; would you take those
two years towards the five years' experience you require
for a owrtifioate 7— Yes.

26371. You do that now ; that is your practice 7 —
Yes, we simply desire to know whether the man has had
the necessary experience gained anywhere. In fact we
look upon a oanoidate who has gained his experience in
various countries as probably rather a better man.

26372. You say it is not only with an English certificate
but also with a &lgian certificate or a German certificate 7
— ^That would be at the discretion entirely of the examiners.

26373. There is no rule laid down by Act of Parliament
in Sydney as to what experience a man must have for hia
five years' experience except that he must have five years'
experience in mining 7 — ^Yes.

26374. Supposing he has not had it all in Sydney. If he
says, "I have had two years' experience in Ebgland,
Belgium, or Germany," he must produce evidence to show
that he has had that experience 7 — Yes.

26376. What evidence do you require 7 — He must have
documentary evidence from his employers to show that
he has had experience, and then it is left entirely to the
discretion of the examiners whether they will accept that^
because it necessarily follows that experience in one of our
States might not be of the same value as experience in.
another. It depends altogether on the extent to which
coal mining is carried on.

26376. Your Act in Sydney has the same words, but you
interpret them differently 7 — I have reason to think that
you interpret your Act in the same way if I am not mis«
taken ; some of our young men have gone over with
the greater part of their experience in New South Wales
and it has been accepted here.

26377. {Mr. Batdiffe EUis.) I think that is not general
at all 7 — But still it has been done.

26378. {Chairman.) Then with regard to the experienoe in
mines it must be for at least five years. That would leave
the examiners no option at all if the experience ha* to be in
New South Wales. If the whole experience was in New
South Wales, and a man produced evidence that he had
had practical experience for five years in New South Wales,
then the examiners would be bound to say, " You are
qualified to sit for this examination on the ground of
experience." They could not refuse him, but supposing
he produces a certificate of experience from elsewhere and
as^ the examiners to accept that experience instead of the
experience in Sydney, the examiners have a right to say,
" We will do nothing of the kind ; we have an option " 7 —
Experience gained in your coalfields would be accepted
without question, but you must bear in mind that we have
some csmdidates occasionally from other States of the
Commonwealth, where coal mining is only carried on to a
very limited extent, and it is necessary that tJbey should
have that discretionary power to refuse.

26379. Does each Board of Examiners have that dis-
cretionary power 7 — ^There is only one Board.

26380. They have absolute discretionary power to say
whether a man must produce what they consider sufficient
evidence of practical experience for five years 7 — Quite so.

26381. {Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) Supposing a man has had
five years' experience in a mine in New South Wales, there
is no discretion in the Board of Examiners as to qualifica-
tion. That qualifies him to sit for the examination 7 — Yes.

26382. If he has had five years' practical experience
elsewhere than New South Wales, the examiners may

Please themselves whether they allow him to sit or not 7 —
es. .

26383. (Chairman.) The Board of Examiners of which
you are Chairman would always accept evidence of practical
experience gained in an English mine 7 — ^There are two
questions involved in that. We do not only ask that
the experience gained in New South Wales should be
accepteid here, but we ask that tne certificates granted
by the New South Wales Board of Examiners .

26384. I was not on the point of certificates ; I was oa
the point of practical experience enabling a man to sit
for examinations ; I want to deal with that question
first before I go on to the other. Dealing with the questioD
of the amount of mining experience that will entitle a man
in New South Wales to sit for the first-class certificate,
you say in practice that you would always recogniscr
experience in an English coal mine 7 — That is so.

26386. You have never refused a man who has produced
evidence that he has had practical experience for evo
many years in an English coal mine. There are parts of
the Commonwealth which you feel it neceesaiy to exdude T
-—Yes, because coal mining is carried on to a very limited
extent ; in fact in some not at all. «

26386. And foreign countries 7— Yes.

26387. Experience of underground work in some foreign
countries you would take, and in others you would not
take 7 — ^As a matter of fact I do not know that we have
had any from foreign oomitries.


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26388. You suggest that it should be reciprocal and in
England — I am only now dealing with the experience that
would enable a man to sit for examinations — ^we ought to
accept practical experience in New* South Wales as being
equal to that gained in the United Kingdom f — Yes.

26389. If the Board of Sydney is willing to vouch that
a man has had practical experience for so many years in
New South Wales you think that it should be accepted in
England ?— Yes.

26390. The ground for saying that is because you think
ik man may gain as varied a practical experience in New
South Wales as anywhere else ? — ^Yes.

26391. That is as regards experience. Then you go
further and sa>r that the New South Wales certificate should
be recognised in England just as our first-class certificate

iis accepted in that State ? — ^Yes.
26392. If a man comes from Sydney with a first-class
certificate he ought to be able to take a manager's place in
England ?— Yes.

26393. Your ground for saying that is you consider
your examinations are quite as stiff as the average
examinations in England ? — ^Yes, and the experience to be

gained is quite as varied. Let there be no misappre-
ension ; this is only asked on behalf of the State of New
&uth Wales. There must not be any misapprehension in
the matter that it is on behalf of the Commonwealth. It
is only New South Wales where coal mining is carried on to
any great extent. I am not here on behalf of Victoria or

26394. You have not had sufficient experience in other
mines in Australia to make a suggestion as to whether a
certificate from Victoria ought or ought not to be accepted?
— ^There are very few coal mines in the other States, and I
should say it was impossible that a candidate could possibly
have the necessary experience if he had worked entirely in
Victoria or Queensland.

26395. You are prepared to put in some examination
papers to show the nature of the examinations in Sydney 7
— I put in the Annual Report of the Department of Mines
for New South Wales for 1906.

26396. Do you wish to make any further observations
other than IJiose which are contained in these official
documents with regard to experience and examination for
first and second-class certificates 7 — No, I do not know
that I can. I only wish to say that our coal mines there on
the whole, I think, compare favourably with the British
coal mines. They are very well equipped ; some of them
are very deep, and there are a great variety of conditions.
Some of them are very gassy, and I consider that the
management of our mines, to say the least, will compare
favourably with British coal mines.

26397. You propose to arive us your views with regard
to the dust question and watering and so on. There
is one statement you make whidi I should like to
hear your explanation of. You say the explosion
at Kembla jumped long distances of wet and damp roads
and died out in the dustiest parts, and that the same thing
happened at Femie in Canada. That is contrary to the
opimoDS of witnesses who have appeared before us. What

r do you mean by " long distances of wet and damp roctds " 7
I — The explosion at Kembla started in a dusty portion of the
mine and it travelled out towards the tunnel mouth, and
the last part of it — that is at the tunnel mouth there were at
least 200 or 300 yards of road damp, one might say almost
t wet.

26398. It went right through at least 200 yards of damp
road 7 — Yes, it went right through and ignited. Besides

> destroying the engine-house it ignited some woodwork
' , outside. It also died out in the dustiest portion.

26399. Perhaps it had expended nearly all its energy
before it got to the very dusty portion, and consequently
there was not sufficient wind to raise the dust 7 — It died out
in the dustiest portion within about perhaps 300 yards of
the point of origin, and it went out in the wettest portion
gainst pretty nearly a mile of roadway.

26400. I do not quite follow what you mean. — It died
out in the dustiest portion within about 300 yards or so
of the point of origin of explosion, and it travelled out
against a road wet and dusty in patches and finally 200 or
300 yards of wet road, probably three quarters of a mile
from where it originated.

26401. You mean that it went in two directions 7 — It
went in several directions.

26402. In cme direction it died out after 300 yards in a
iiusty part after having traversed 200 yards of wet road 7
— No, I am afraid I have not made myself clear ; the

explosion in one direction died out in dust within, say, 300 ^r. D. A, Tf .
yards of the point where it originated. Rob^ison,


26403. What did it pass through 7— Dust.

26404. Passed through dust for 300 yards and died out
in the dusty part 7 — In the dusty part.

26405. It went the whole way through a dusty part of
the mine and died out of itself within 300 yards, although
the whole of the road it went through was dusty 7 — ^The
300 ysirds. Then in the other direction it went out
towards the tunnel mouth for a distance of probably three
quarters of a mile, and that road in parts was wet, with
patches of dust on the tunnel mouth end; that is, the
furthest point from the point where tiie explosion started,
and was quite three-quarters of a mile, so that the explosion
actually died out in dust within quite close proximity of
where it originated.

26406. Was the explosion a very strong explosion in that
direction 7 — It was violent in the wettest direction.

26407. In the direction in which it died out in 300 yards
did it begin by being violent 7 — ^Yes.

26408. It died out very suddenly 7 — I daresay within
300 yards ; I speak approximately, but it was something
like that.

26409. {Sir Lindsay Wood,) Where it died out in 300
yards was the current going in the same direction as the
explosion or against it 7 — It was going with the explosion.

26410. In the three quskrters of a mile was it going
against the current 7 — Yes.

26411. {Mr.Ralcliffe EU%8.) What sort of a road was it - a
haulage road 7 — A haulage road.

26412. Horses 7— Endless rope.

26413. What sort of dust was it 7— The mine in the
ordinary sense would not be considered very dusty.

26414. Shale dust or coal dust 7 — Coal dust. It was
rather coarse dust.

26416. (Chairman.) Was it finer in the direction it went
further 7 — No, I should say not.

26416. What about this Canadian explosion 7— That I
only know of by reading the various accounts of the

26417. As regards the Kembla explosion, that was a
colliery you went down yourself 7 — I was down there
within one hour after the explosion, and I subsequently
spent some Ume as a Royal Commissioner investigating
the cause of the explosion.

26418. You can put in a Report you made on that explo-
sion 7 — ^Yes.

26419. You want to say something to the Commission
about accidents on haulage roads. You think that better
provision should be made in the way of travelling roads to
obviate the necessity for workmen walking on steep
inclines or haulage roads, particularly where the main and tafl
system is in use and in proximity of dangerous machinery.
What is your suggestion with regard to the prevention of
accidents 7 What do you do in Sydney 7 — My remarks
apply everywhere^ think. There is not sufficient pro-
vision made in many cases for th^^afety of workmen. I
think travelling roads should be provided in dangerous
positions and steep inclines where the main and tail rope
system is in operation.

26420. What is the main and tail system 7— The essential
difference between the main and tail and the endless rope
is that the speed is very high in the main and tail, anything

. from 10 to 16 miles an hour, but with endless rope it is not
very often more than 2 miles an hour.

26421. What do you do in Sydney with regard to
making haulage roads safe 7 — Generally speaking separate
traveling roads are provided. In my own colliery we have
many miles, in some cases we have duplicate travelling
roads so that horses might go on one and men on the

26422. Where the men are obliged to go alone on the
haulage roads, do you consider it necessary to have a gang-
way on one side sufficient for a man to walk on to get out
of the way of the trucks 7 — It is not in all cases so. In
certain dangerous positions for instance apparently walking
along a haulage road you come to a place where there
is machinery overhead and you have to step down to 4 ft.
6 or 6 ft. 6, and with the racket of the machinery you
cannot hear the trucks coming forward, and accidents
imdoubtedly may and do occur in that way.

26423. If you had a gangway you could always walk on
the gangway at the side 7 — ^That would not be in all cases

10 July, 1907

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Mr, D.A.W. pcaotioable. The roof might be so bad that it would be
BoheiUon. practically impossible to maintain a road wide enough to
lA V 1 «^/vp. permit that. You might have a separate travelling road
10 Juty, 1007 ^ few yards off.

26424. Have you anything further to say about accidents
on haulage roads ? — No, only my general opinion that
greater provision should be made for the protection of
workmen travelling in dangerous conditions. There are
some haulage roads where the endless rope is in operation
moving at a very slow pace, 2 miles an hour, which is
under the rate a man can walk himseU. There is not
much need for it there.

26425. Your experience of mines I understand has been
got not only in New South Wales, but you have been over
a large number of mines in the United Kingdom ? — I have
been 20 years in New South Wales, and for nearly 20 years
before then I had experience in the British coal mines.

26426. {Mr, Ratcliffe EUis.) I see you say that it would
be possible to establish a standard height of cap or per-
centage of gas permissible in the working face, travelling
roads, and other parts of the mine.

{Chairman.) What is your explanation of that para-
graph ? Mr. Ellis wants to know what you propose to do
under that suggestion of yours ?

{Witness.) The examinations for firedamp are made at
the face by lamps burning different oils. You cannot,
as you have heard before in this Commission, detect less
than 3 per cent, if you bum Colza oil. I maintain the
examination should be made by lamps burning an
oil which will show percentages at least down to
1 per cent,, and then you will have a uniformity in
the results, but the reports at present are very con-
fusing, because it is quite clear that one man is
examining for gas with an oil that will show 1 per cent.,
and anoth^ar man is examining with an oil that will only
show 3 per cent Of course, you will have very different

26427. {Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) You say in your second
paragraph with reference to the standard that it would
then be possible to establish a standard height of cap or
percentage of gas permissible in the working face, travelling
roads, and other parts of the mine. Do you consider that
there should be some percentage of gas that might be
permissible ? — You must, you cannot avoid it. You
cannot have mines absolutely free from gas. At present
there is such a diversity of opinion upon that point that it
is very desirable that some standard aefinition of dangerous
percentages of gas should be arrived at.

26428. When you have got your standard, what then T
— If you exceed the standard the men are not to be per-
mitted to work.

26429. Is it up to a certain standard that they should
be permitted to work ? — ^Yes ; it is obvious no matter how
peiiect the ventilation may be, if a mine gives off gas
freely you must have some percentage of gas in the air.

26430. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) I think the point is this,
that the percentage of gas now permissible is that when
it shows a cap ? — Yes.

26431. If it shows a cap it is not peAussible to work,
but the showing of a cap is a debateable point. Then you
say some oils show 1 per cent, and some show 3 per cent.,
and you want to have some standard system introduced 7
— I do not mean where a lamp shows the presence
of 1 per cent, of gas that working should not be
permitted. It is the only means of indicating what
percentage is in the gas. Then comes another question :
what percentage would you allow ? You would have to
allow more than 1 per cent. That is obvious.

26432. The crucial point is the showing of a cap ? — Yes.

26433. That, you sajr, is an uncertain quantity ? — ^That
is so. We know Colza oil will not show less than 3 per cent ;
therefore if a lamp burning Colza oil shows a cap it must
be more than 3 per cent., and more than 3 per cent, would
not be permissible.

26434. {Chairman.) I do not understand how you gauge
the difference between 1 per cent and 3 per cent. The
mineral oil lamp will show a cap of 1 per cent. Do you go
by the height of the cap ? — Yes.

26435. At 2 per cent the cap would be so much higher ?

26436. You measure the cap ? — Yee.

26437. The fireman, or whoever's business it was, would
measure the cap on the lamp and say, ' ' This is a safe cap :
it only shows IJ per cent." ? — Yes.

26438. (^ft> Lindsay Wood.) On the question of the

explosion dying out within 300 yards, do you attribute-
that to the fa.ct that the explosion was going in the same
direction as the air ? — ^That may have been a factor, but
I have not come to any conclusion on the subject. I merely
record it as a faot

26439. The effect would be that the explosion itself was
depriving the current of the air necessary to feed th»
explosion ? — ^No doubt.

26440. It was burning the air, and preventing the oxygen
getting to feed it ?— I might explain that the mine
was ventilated by more than one inlet, and in the one
direction in which the explosion died out through a pair
of doors it met a fresh current of air ; that is to say, it
followed the air current from where it originated for so-
many hundred yards, and then blew through two doors and
met a fresh air current. It would be an intake in that
case really against the explosion.

26441. It is very difficult to judge ?— Yes.

26442. Are the mines in New South Wales very similar
in extent to the English mines, so that the exx)erience of a
man would be somewhat similar to what it is in England ?
— Yes. We have some very extensive mines, and I think
there is at least one, the colliery with which I am connected,
where, in so far as the gas is concerned, I have not met
anything so dangerous in any British coalfield. We have
very large ventilation, 400,000 cubic feet a minute, and a
good deal of gas in that.

26443. Does it extend over a large area ? — The workings
cover an area probably of 2,000 acres, and that is in the
course of about 18 years' work, and there are other mines
even more extensive.

26444. A large proportion of the mines are worked by
drifts ? — They are mostly worked by drifts. The last few
years there have been a number of shafts sunk. The
Sydney Harbour Colliery is the deepest, nearly 3,000 ft.
That is exceptional. The next is the colliery with which
I am connected, working at a depth of about 1,500 ft,
but then again the shaft is only 1,100 ft. It is sunk in a
deep gorge.

26445. What would be something like an average
depth T Does it run about 300 ft ? — More than that.
The average depth would be considerably over that A
large number of mines are 500 odd ft, 600 ft, and 700 ft,
and from that on to 3,000 ft For the most part they are
now worked by safety lamps.

26446. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) This explosion to which
you referred, I understood you to say, was along a dusty
road. The explosion spent itself and was exhausted in
300 yards ?— About 300 yards.

26447. It was over a wet roadway. How wet was it ?
Was it naturally damp or was it by being watered ? — The
roadway was damp, but dusty in parts.

26448. There must be some material to feed the explo-
sion ? — No doubt that accounted for it up to a certain
point, but it ended at 300 yards or so in a road that was
distinctly damp, and fired the engine houses outside.

26449. What do you think is the explanation that the
dusty road did not feed the explosion and carry it on T—
I cannot say. I merely state the fact I believe that the
experience at Femie, in Canada, was similar ; but I do not
know about that from personal observation.

26450. This mine you refer to you know all about T —

26451. Was it a gas explosion ?— We think it was a gas
explosion originally, but what ignited the gas is a mystery,
because there was no light.

26462. No blasting T — No question of a shot involved.
There was no light within 200 or 300 yards.

26453. {Chairman.) And no man ?— Nobody.

26454. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Do you use electricity
underground 7 — At that time 7

26455. Yes ?— Yee, they had electricity.

26456. Electric coal cutters T— Not at that time.

26457. You have no doubt that it did not arise from
that ?— There is absolutely no question. It was not an
explosion from shot-firing, and it must have been ignited^
but how it was ignited is a mystery. It was a naked light

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 62 of 177)