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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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mine, I may say.

26458 Is not the other portion rather a mystery, that it
would travel so far along the damp road and does not
travel or feed on a dusty road ?— It is a curious thing, but
that is supported, I say, by the experienoe at Femie.



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26459. Yon have not been able to solve that riddle T —
No, it is a mystery to this day.

26460. Was the dust of such a nature that it would
feed an explosion ? — I may say it was not, in the ordinary
acceptation of the tenn, a dusty mine, but apparently, of
course, it did.

26461. (Dr. Haldane,) What made the road wet T—
It was naturally wet. They had watered, but I am afraid
they did not water very systematically.

26462. Was the dampness of the road due to watering ?
— Artificial watering T

26463. Yes ?— No, not in my opinion.

26464. It was natural damp ?— The Company claimed
that they watered the roads, out I do not know that we
were very well satisfied on that point. It was watered
naturally, in the mines, from the surface.

26465. (Mr, Enoch Edwards,) Some portion of the road
is naturally damp, I understood you to say ? — Yes.

26466. The roadway of 300 yards which the explosion
travelled was dusty. It ceased to travel beyond that
point. You have no explanation of why it did ? — No.

26467. You make a suggestion here about the percentage
of gas in a place. You suggest with a certain kind of oil
that is used you will be able to ascertain a fixed standard
of gas ? — We cannot at present, because you bum different
oils.

26468. Do you mean that if you could get a lamp that
will fix you a standard of 3 per cent., that 3 per cent,
prevents you working in it ? — I do not mean to say that
at all. They do at present, no doubt, because there are a
lot of miners working using colza oil, and they are per-
mitted to work although there may be gas abnost sufficient
to show 3 i)er cent. It must be quite clear if the cap is
distinct on a colza lamp that it is 3 per cent

26469. Is not the fireman capable of detecting this gas
when going his rounds ? — If the oil will not detect under
3 per cent, he cannot. That is the limit of his powers.

26470. Do you suggest in all fiery mines in this oountry
that the fireman going round with a lamp when there is gas
eannot detect it T — He cannot if he bums colza oil. That
is obvious.

26471. It is suggested that 3 per cent of gas in a dusty
mine is sufficient to cause an explosion ? — Certainly.

26472. So that do you seriously suggest that in all the
pits in this oountry, when the fireman is going round and
there is a condition of things of that sort, with men working,
that he cannot detect it ? — Very possibly. I think it is
very likely.

, 26473. You think so ? — I am sure of it If they bum
colza oil they cannot possibly detect under 3 per cent.

26474. (Dr, Haldane,) Have you made any anal3n9is of
the air to show that fact, because it is a most disturbing
statement Do you know any analysis of the air to
support that statement ? — I make tests along with the
Oovemment inspectors with lamps burning colza oil, and
also mineral oil, and undoubtedly, comparing with the
test made by the hydrogen lamp, the colza oil w3l not show
under 3 per cent

26475. Are there reliable analyses to show that T It is
a statement that is most extraordinary ? — Is it ? I am not
aware that it is extraordinary. I have often heard it
before.

26476. (Mr, Enoch Edwards,) It is the first time it has
been suggested here to us ? — That colza oil will not show
lees than 3 per cent. ?

26477. It is the first time it has been* suggested in the
way you put it, that a fireman mav go round with his lamp
exfiimining a pit which is in a highly dangerous condition,
there being 3 per cent of gas in the place, and would not
be able to detect it.

26478. (Dr, Haldane.) How is such a tost made 7 I
have done tests with far less than that, and the cap was as
distinct as possible ? — Burning colza oil ?

26479. Yes ?— I do not know.

26480. Did they pull down the fiame when testing ? —
Certainly. If you bum pure colza oil you cannot see
under 3 per cent.

26481. I should say you could easily see a good deal
under 2 per cent ?— That is a matter of opinion,
I do not think so. I am sure I have often heard the state-
ment made before.



26482. These statements are made very loosely. There
is no analysis of the samples ? — I can only say I have
made the experiments with the Government inspectors,
and that is the opinion we have formed.

26483. You have only checked the percentage with a
hydrogen lamp ? — Yes.

26484. You might over-estimate the percentage with a
hydrogen lamp ? — ^Not very much.

(Dr, Haldane.) 1 think it is very difficult to determine.

26485. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) When you say it has been
suggested, do you mean you have heard it suggested in
£ngUuid ?— Certainly. I have often heard it. I believe
you will find it in the text^books, too.

26486. I am right in stating that it is suggested if there
is 3 per cent, of gas in a dusty mine you have all the
elements of an explosion Y — Certainly.

26487. So that you may have firemen passing places as
safe every morning ? — Quite so.

26488. We have been living in rather a fool's paradise
here T — 1 daresay you have.

26489. Of all the inspectors and experts who have been
here, none have told the Commission that we have such
a condition of things which we approve as safe. The
present law is very clear that we require ventilation to
dilute this gas and render it harmless ? — ^What is " harm-
less " ; I want to have the standard established.

26490. It is less than 3 per cent., because 3 per
cent, could not be said to be harmless 7 — Why do they
establish 3 per cent. ? Is it not because that is the lowest
I)ercentage that can bo detected by the lamp that was in
use for a number of years ?

26491. That is how you put it, I understand T — Yes.

26492. With regard to your reference to travelling
roads, do I understand in New South Wales that you have
separate travelling roads in your mines ? — ^Very often. I
do not say that we are perfect in that respect, but I say
that there are conditions in many mines dangerous, in
my opinion, and I do think that better provision ought
to be made under those circumstances.

26493. You have, perhaps, heard that several witnesses
here have suggested making a by-road alongside the tram-
way, keeping a sufficient width always for men to travel
to and fro ? — ^That might not be always possible with a
bad roof.

26494. I understood you to suggest as an alternative
that you thought the safer way was to drive a separate
road T — Yes, and I think it can bo done in most cases. I
do not see why in longwall working a separate travelling
road could not be generally adopted. I see no reason why
it should not.

26496. In all cases where you have main haulage roads
there should be a separate' travelling road ? — Yes. I do
not say in all. There may be some of an exceptional
character, where the expense would be too great, and,
perhaps, which would warrant exemption.

26406. Have you had much experience of watering
roads in mines ? — Yes — well, I cannot say that I have had
much experience, as, probably, the management in this
country, but it has been done very extensively. I have
seen a very well-watered mine.

26497. Have you seen any in this country watered ? —
Yes.

26498. Recently ?— Yes.

26499. (Mr. RatcUffe EUis.) With refwence to your
examinations, you have an alternative to the five years'
practical experience in a mine, and it is that a period of
three years' apprenticeship to a mining engineer may be
substituted by a candidate for a first-class certificate as
an alternative for an equivalent period of regular em-
ployment in a mine under the Act, if the apprentice has,
in the discharge of his duties, to go down mines and obtain
practical experience therein ? — Yes.

26500. Would you take surveying as sufficient practical
experience ? You do not say the practical experience in
the management, but you say an apprentice to a mining
engineer, if he has to go down nunes and obtain practical
experience therein. Would you consider surveying
sufficient 7 — ^Not surveying alone. That would be a matter
for the examiners to determine, whether the nature of his
duties while in the mine afforded an opportunity for him
to gain experience. A man confined entirely to surveying
I do not consider would be .sufficiently qualified.

26501. Is it looked into closely to see what duties ho
has to perform in one of those alternative qualifications ? —

25



Mr,D.A,W.
Robertson.

10 July, 1907



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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



Mr.D.A,W.
Robertson.

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The ezamiiiers satisfy themselves. The surveyor's duties
very often are more than surveying : they are general ;
probably an assistant to the manager, and so forth.

26502. That is enquired into ?— Yes.

26603. Not merely that he has to go down mines to
obtain practical experience, but the nature of the experience
he gains is enquired into ? — Yes.

26504. Can you obtain a diploma from any certified
mining college in your country ? — Yes, we have technical
colleges. There is the university mining class and technical
colleges in three main centres, also local technical classes.

26505. You do not accept as a substitute for part of the
experience in a mine a diploma from one of these colleges ? —
No, but I think they should. I think so myself, but the
Board, so far, have not come to my way of thinking.

26506. That has been adopted in England ?— Yes.

26507. You think that would be desirable ?— I think
it is highly desirable, considering that a scientific education
is required now from employers. I think it is ridiculous
to think that the time a man spends in acquiring that
scientific education should not count.

26508. When you get a certificate from England as to a
man's experience who is going to submit himself for ex-
amination in New South Wales, what is the form of t&e
certificate T — A certificate from his employers as to his
duties, and so forth ; nothing else.

26509. Does it say what duties he has performed ? —
Yes. The examiners would satisfy themselves that the
candidate has had the necessary practical experience.

26510. They can only satisfy themselves upon the
certificate. They do not send to this country for evidence ?
—No.

26511. Have you a form of the certificate sent ? — No,
they are the usual documents.

26512. Could you say what is put upon the certificate ?
You have seen many of them, no doubt ?— They do not
come before me, although I am Chairman ; they come
before the examiners.

26513. You do not know what is said on it 7 — ^What is
usually said on testimonials as to character and experience.

26514. The examiners do not take any trouble to ascer-
tain what is the character and the experience a candidate
would have in the mines. It is in the letter that comes
to them T — ^They satisfy themselves also by oral examina-
tion of the candidate.

26515. I am talking about the qualification to sit; as
to his ability to pass, that is another matter ? — I mean
before they allow him to sit they will take these written
testimonials from the employers and ask the candidate
questions.

26516. It is upon what ho &ays as well as the written
letters that they accept his experience ? — Yes.

26517. You have an ambulance examination for the
second-class candidates ? — Yes.

26518. But not for the first ?— I think so.

26519. It does not seem to be here T — If you look at
the rules for the conduct of examinations t think you
will find it there.

26520. I beg your pardon. I see these remarks apply
to both classes of candidates ? — Yes.

26521. In your oral examination the candidate must
satisfy the examiner that he has a thorough practical
knowledge of mining 7 — Yes.

26522. Electricity does not seem to be put in here 7 —
Yes, thi? last year or two, but I do not kuow whether I
can find it. That has been brought up before the Board,
and I think notice was given that it should be a subject
for examination. I see from the Blue Book that it is
one of the subjects— machinery, boilers, pumps, electrical
appliances, etc.

26523. You may have added it since this was put in.
With reference to machinery, does that include coal
cutting 7 Yes, we have a lot of coal cutting in Australia.

26524. That is as to the qualification to sit. With
reference to the examinatioa, have you one Board 7 — Yes.

26525. One examination only 7 — No, there are two
examinations — one generally held at Newcastle and the
other at Sydney.

\ 26526. Different examiners 7 — No, the same examiners.

26527. How frequently are these held 7 — Twice a year.

26528. The same examiners 7 — Ye?.



26529. At each place 7 — No, only one in Newcastle and
one in Sydney.

26530. So that there are two in the year, but by the
same examiners 7 — Yes.

26531. (Dr. Haldane.) The whole of the coal production
is in New South Wales 7 — Yes. There is some in New
Zealand.

26532. There is some in New Zealand 7 — Yes, but it ]»
practically all in New South Wales.

26533. (Mr. Ratdiffe Ellis.) Have you candidates from
any other places except New South Wales 7 — We have had
one from Queensland, who was rejected.

26534. You allow them to come and sit 7 — Provided
they satisfy the examiners.

26535. You do not exclude them from any other place T
— No.

26536. When a man comes with an English certificate
is that re-certified in any way by your mining authorities 7
— It has to be produced and registered.

26537. Produced to the mining authorities in New South
Wales, and it is registered 7 — Yes.

26538. Is there any communication with the Homo
Government as to whether this is a valid certificate or not T
— The production of the certificate is sufficient.

26539. It might have been cancelled here 7 — It may be.
It is a very unlikely contingency.

26540. You have no communcation with the Homo
Government 7 — No.

26541. Is not that desirable 7 — I daresay it is, but I
should call it an extreme precautionary measure.

26542. If your certificates were recognised in England
you think they should also be registered here by the Homo
Office 7 — Yes ; I should think it very improbable that
any candidate would produce a cancelled certificate.

26543. It might perhaps be safer if a certificated man-
ager, who has a certificate in New South Wales, is going
to use it in Encland, or one who has it in England is going
to use it in ^w South Wales should have it visa^ in
some way before he takes it away from here or there 7 —
I quite concur.

26544. (Mr. HaldaTie.) Would it not do to notify the
Government there of any cancellation 7 — That would be
better.

26545. That would save a lot of trouble 7 — Yes.

26646. (Mr. Raidiffe EUis.) With reference to gas in
New South Wales, is it your experience that men are
working in gas to the extent that you have mentioned
— 3 per cent. 7 — I do not think so, except in one colliery.
There is not sufficient gas given off to bring about a per-
centage of 3 per cent. There is only one, and in that ono
they are examined with mineral oil

26547. Have you the same regulation in New South
Wales as we have in No. 1 General Rule 7 — Yes, only ther»
is an additional proviso that the adequate ventilation ia
defined as so many cubic feet per minute, and a very
dangerous thing, in my opinion.

26548.- 'In your view as a manager, is that a safe state
of things 7 You say in New South Wales you know men
are working in gas to the extent of 3 per cent. 7 — I did
not say so. I said the contrary. I said only in one mine
was gas given ofE in sufficient quantities to give 3 per
cent, in the air.

26549. What is the condition of that mine 7 — In that
case the examinations are made with mineral oil lamps,
and the men would not be permitted to work in 3 per
cent., or anything like it. If the examinations were made
by lamps burning colza oil the chances are they might
be working in 3 per cent, and be quite unaware of it»

26550. (Dr. Haldane.) Is it pure colza oil that is com-
monly burnt in miners' lamps in New South Wales, or a
mixture of colza and paraffin 7 — Generally a little kerosene
mixed with it.

26551. Just as there is in England 7 — That is not pure
colza. Some do mix a little kerosene, and that makes a
material difference, but others are using pure colza, and
if you use pure colza you cannot detect it. You asked
me about colza oils. If you say a mixture of colza with
something else it is a very different matter.

26552. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) What is the output of tho
colliery that you are connected with 7 — 330,000 tons per
annum.

26553. Is that one of the largest, or the largest 7 — No,.
there are some with larger outputs than that.



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26654. What would be the biggest output ? — I do not
know whether I can give it to you.

26555. Roughly ? — I think there is one that has had
about 400,000 tons.

26556. In these mines you have stated, I think, that
there is a great amount of working open ? — Some of them
are very extensive.

26557. Have you had any watering ? Is it done in
New South Wales ? — The main roads are watered where
safety lamps are in use to a considerable extent.

26558. How is it done ?— By tanks.

26559. Is anything done in the way of spraying the
roofs or sides ? — Only locally. There is no general system.
I may say in my own colliery we water with a hose, but
only in the vicinity of shots, and we have no shot-firing
in coal. It is only in stone. Very elaborate precautions
«re taken. We have a pump and a hose.

26560. For shot-firing ?— Yes.

i 26561. To what distance ?— 30 or 40 yards from a shot,
j and we usually remove all the dust first. We take very
elaborate precautions.



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Would systematic watering affect the strata 7
-Yes, undoubtedly.

26563. In your opinion, could you water thoroughly the
P<whole of a mine ? — In my opinion it is absolutely impossible.

You could not even if it was not injurious. In many
mines it would be impossible. Take my own case. The
temperature is 83 degrees ; it is very dusty, and there
are many miles of travelling ways and retam airways,
large roads heavily timbered. Even if we had the water
to spare it would be nearly impossible to keep it watered,
the evaporation is so great. As a matter of fact, we have
not got the water.

26564. What sort of roofs have you generally ?— Shale
roofs. There are a few cases of sandstone.

26565. Those roofs would be affected by watering ? —
No doubt they would.

26566. Going back to the explosion, how much of that
three quarters of a mile would have been damp or wet, and
how much of it dusty ? You have told us that parts of
it were wet and parts of it were dry ? — I daresay probably
three- fourths of it would be dusty.

26567. And one quarter of it would have been wet ? —
Yes, but the outer end of it was damp.

26568. For how far ?— About 300 yards.

26569. For the last 300 yards ?— About that.

26570. (Mr. SmiUie.) Have you many prosecutions of
either officials or workmen for breaches of the Coal Mines
Act ?— Yes.

26571. A considerable number ? — You will find them all
in this book.

26572. Roughly, have you had many ? — ^I daresay in
my own place I may have 10 — 10 to 14.

26573. I suppose the proportion of prosecutions to the
number of men employed will be as large as it is here ? —
I think more.

26574. Are all offences by workmen against the Mines
Act prosecuted for if they are found out ? — Not necessarily,
because I would have to have a court every day. Many
are minor breaches wliich of course we cannot possibly
prosecute for in every instance. They are let off with an
admonition, or something of that sort.

26575. It depends upon the offence ? — It depends
altogether on the character. There are some offences it is
X>olicy not to prosecute for. A man will take more notice
of a lecture than a prosecution.

26576. Have you any system of management fining the
workman guilty of a breach of the Coal Mines Act, or a
breach of any Kule ?— We never fine for breaches of the
Bules.

26577. There would be a prosecution for any serious
breach of the Act likely to lead to loss of life ? — That is
eertain. There would be a prosecution in any case except
of a very minor character. I do not say that it would
apply to every mine, but there are a number of the best
regulated mines where they are very strict.

26578. (Mr, Ratdiffe Ellis.) Do you fine for offences
that are not provided for by the Mines Act ? — Only for
the filling of debris. That is a matter of agreement.

26579. (Mr. SmiUie.) There is no fining for breaches of
the Special Rules or the Mines Act ?— No. I think that
would be very improper.



26580. As a colliery manager you have had long ex- Mr.D.A,W
perience ; do you thmk it would be a mistake to have Bob^Uon,
fines ? — Yes.



26581. Have there been many prosecutions of colliery
managers or other officials ?— Yes, I prosecuted some of
my own officials where they had neglected their duty.
I would not hesitate to prosecute.

26582. Is the Inspector of Mines supposed to send on a
list of all convictions against managers or officials to the
Minister of Mines ?— Yes ; they are all recorded in the
Blue Book.

26583. If there is a serious breach of the Act or a report
of incompetency made by the Mines Inspector, has the
Minister of Mines power to appoint a court to hold an
enquiry, and has that court power to cancel a certificate ? —
Yes, it has been done. There have been several enquiries
that have lasted only too long, I am sorry to say.

26584. You accept fii'st or second-class certificates
granted in Great Britain to colliery managers in New South
Wales ? — Yes, without question.

26585. You do not allow any person to be in charge of
either winding engines or haulage engines or electrical
engines unless they hold a certificate of competency ? —
No, it is scarcely that. That is restricted to winding
engines only. A Bill was brought in requiring all men in
charge of machinery of every class to hold certificates,
but after representations were made to the Minister he
altered it confining the certificates to winding engine-drivers
only.

26586. Was that since 1901 ?— That is only quite lately.

26587. The Act of 1901 provided for certificates of three
classes ? — I do not think so, you have got it wrong. Was
that metalliferous mines ?

26588. The Mines Inspection Act of 1901 published in
1906 ? — ^That applies to metalliferous mines.

26589. Only ? — Yes, I am referring to coal mines.

26590. This only applies to metalliferous mines ?— Yes,
there is a reason for that. In metalliferous mines nearly
everybody in charge of machinery has occasion to wind
men up little staple shafts and so on, but in coal mines it
is only the winding- engine drivers who have to wind the
men.

26591. In coal mines winding -engine drivers require a
certificate of competency ? — Yes, but I think it is a great
mistake.

26592. That at least is the law ?~That is the law, and
I think it is a great mistake.

26593. (Mr. Ratcliffe EUis.) Is there any objection to
saying why you think so ?— I maintain that a winding-
engine driver's duties are such that you cannot find out his
qualifications for the position by examination. It is a
matter of his moral character, his judgment, his nerve, and
no examination in the world will ever find out whether the
man possesses the necessary qualifications for that position.
We do not need a man, nowadays, having a knowledge of
mechanics, at least a very intimate knowledge of mechanics,
for the x>osition of a winding-engine driver. He is sitting
there all day long and has not to go near the boilers, in
fact he does not need to supervise them at all. In all
collieries nowadays there is a mechanical staff looking
after the condition of the machinery.

26594. (Chairman.) What about the examination for
physical fitness ? It has been stated that on more than
one occasion in England a man has died suddenly from
heart disease, which might have been found out if he had
been examined periodicsklly. Do you examine periodically ?
— Not periodically. Under the Act there are some certifi-



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 63 of 177)