The Miners Memorial Day Service is held on 19 September every year – a date marking the anniversary of Queensland’s worst mining disaster in 1921 when 75 miners lost their lives in a coal dust explosion at Mount Mulligan in Far North Qld – a day to honour the memory of the many hundreds of mine workers who’ve lost their lives in Queensland mines, and in many other mines across Australia.
Mining accidents and disasters are preventable. But lessons from previous accidents and disasters are forgotten or ignored. And history repeats itself.
Multinational companies and shareholders want profits – but profits often means cutting back on health and safety for the mine workers. Accidents increase. Union strikes threaten. People die. And history repeats itself.
Side note: There’ve been unionists in my railway family since Queensland’s General Strike of 1912 when after a mass protest meeting of 10,000 people held in Market Square, the Tram Workers’ strike spread throughout Queensland with wide support. When Railway workers joined the strike, the government acted to break it up. With force.
Female supporters led by Emma Miller, well known suffragette, marched in solidarity with the strikers. And the protest turned violent. Folk lore tells of tiny, frail Emma sticking her hat pin in the Police Commissioner’s horse’s rump, causing him to be thrown from his mount.
‘The riding down and batoning of peaceful people, many of them being elderly and women and children on the footpath, was widely condemned, not only in union papers such as the Worker, but also in the more conservative papers such as Truth. It was initially called Baton Friday, but later came to be popularly known as Black Friday.’
The savagery against the strikers on Black Friday created a bitterness and hatred of the police, lasting for several decades. The strike also reinforced solidarity and collective identity of the Australian labour movement in Queensland.
And history repeats itself.
A few days ago, a miner lost his life in an underground mine outside Emerald in Qld, when the roof collapsed in on two workers installing an underground support structure at the Sojitz Gregory Crinum Mine. Mine safety experts are investigating.