INSPECTION OF MINES.
The terrible explosion in the Kaitangata Coalmine had the effect of awakening interest in the working of mines with a view to the safety of life from such accidents as these, and, as a result, mine inspection is now carried on with vigor. The annual report, by the Under-Secretary of Mines is now before the House of Representatives, in which he says : —“I am glad to state that up to the present time coalmine owners and managers generally have not only accepted the Act as a necessity, but have recognised the benefit which has accrued by adopting it as most calculated to prevent accidents and ensure the safe working of the mines. There has been a large increase in the number of coalmines in the South Island during the year, and steps are now being taken to establish the Act, together with general and special rules for new mines. In the North Island the number remains the same. One of the Waikato mines has been worked out, and a new one, which promises a more extensive area of coal, has been opened by the same Company upon the opposite bank of the river. The number of coalmines in the colony last year was thirty ; this year it is ninety. Many in the South Island are upon a very small scale. It is possible that next year’s report will show that some of these mines have developed into much larger concerns. I agree that the smallest coal mines should be subject to inspection. A statement of the coal imports and exports for the year 879 shows 'that 158,076 tons of coal have been imported, being 16,072 tons less than the quantity imported in 1878. If we add the total output for the colony during 1879 to the quantity imported, and deduct the export during the same period, and assuming that the remainder has been consumed, the total consumption in the colony in 1879 would be 328,898 tons, or an increase over the consumption of 1878 of 49,654 tons; The increase of coal derived from the mines of the colony during 1879 was 69,000 tons over the quantity raised in 1878. There have been six injurious and two fatal accidents during the year. Although the present Act does not provide fo certificated managers this difficulty will be got over by the fact of recent immigration of a better class from England having brought to the colony a number of experienced managers holding home certificates, some of whom have already been employed by mine-owners in preference to former managers less qualified; My experience of the present Act, so far, is that owners and managers have a very wholesome dread of proceeding to arbitration as provided in part 5 of the Act, and that they infinitely prefer to remedy any defect complained of by an inspector than run the risk of incurring the heavy costs of a tedious inquiry after submitting the matter to arbitration. It may still, however, be necessary to make provision for an improved method of settling disputes between the Government and mineowners and managers, as referred to in my last report. The inspection of mines other than coal, including gold-mines, remains in the same position. Inspector McLaren inspects the gold-mines of the Thames and Coromandel, but, as the Government has deciied not to undertake the inspection of scattered gold-mines in the South Island, which could not be done without an increased staff’ of Inspectors, the Regulation of Mines Act has not been introduced in any of these cases. Step by step the reins have been tightened, and although the condition of the coal mines is by no means entirely satisfactory, a great deal has been done by owners and managers towards establishing precautions against accidents by the expenditure of money in effecting improvements for safety, and by the observance of the rules designed to establish the better working of mines. Within eight months from the present date it will be necessary that many of these mines should have a second opening to the surface as a means of egress to the persons employed. The Kaitangata Company’s mine, which was the scene of a terrible explosion, is by the district inspector’s latest report considered in a satisfactory condition, and the company has been at great pains to effect improvements, and to observe the provisions of the Act. Notwithstanding these facts and anything which the Government may do in the matter, accidents of a most serious nature may occur, and it is well that mine-owners and managers should keep the fact in mind that the real safety of the mines depends upon increasing vigilance in taking every precaution against danger. It will nob be the fault of the department if they are not constantly reminded of their duty in this matter.”
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