United Mine Workers International President Cecil E. Roberts will be the keynote speaker at the Dec. 6 memorial service marking the 54th anniversary of the Robena Mine disaster.
Each year, family, friends and fellow workers gather at the granite miners’ memorial along Route 21 in Monongahela Township to honor the 37 men who lost their lives in the Dec. 6, 1962, explosion at U.S. Steel Corp.’s Robena No. 3 Mine.
The service will be held at 11.a.m. by UMW District 2 and Local 1980 at the memorial just west of Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station. Daniel Kane, UMW international secretary-treasurer, also will speak.
The explosion at Robena occurred at 1:03 p.m. and took the lives of members of two continuous mining crews working in the 8 left 4 main section, about two miles from the base of the mine’s Frosty Run Shaft.
The force of the explosion was so strong it knocked down men working underground more than two miles away. One hundred and seventy miners were in the mine at the time and 133 escaped unassisted.
The U.S. Bureau of Mines later determined the explosion occurred when a buildup of methane gas that had accumulated in an area not ventilated for a short period of time was ignited by a friction arc or an electric arc.
The great number of deaths in the coal fields at mine disasters including Robena and Consolidation Coal’s Farmington, W.Va., mine in 1968, which killed 78 miners, eventually led to the passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.
The Robena Mine opened in 1944 and was for many years the nation’s largest underground bituminous coal mine. At its peak in 1954, the mine employed 2,981 workers. Its top production year was 1955 when it produced 4.9 million tons of coal. Production ceased in 1983.
Robena was the worst mine disaster in Greene County since an explosion at the Mather Mine on May 19, 1928. That explosion took the lives of 195 miners.