Bulli Mine 1887

23/03/1887 - Old Bulli - Explosion

On 23 March 1887 a gas explosion in the mine killed 81 men and boys, leaving 50 women widows and 150 children without fathers. There was one survivor, a 17 year old boy who became known as "Boy Cope". The mine reopened later in the year. The Bulli Mine Disaster was one of the worst in the region's history.  The mine has since long been leveled, with only concrete foundations revealing the location of the old office area and other buildings. Hidden along the cliff behind said foundations can be found the old mine entrances. These have been sealed with up to 12 feet of concrete, with a drainage line set in the concrete. To the east is the remnants of the sorting site, a few scattered foundations and a tar patch.

The investigating commission was scathing in their findings. They placed the blame firmly on the heads of mine management, and the miners themselves. Citing their totally lackadaisical approach to safety as the predominant cause of the explosion.

One of the men leading the investigation – F. Danvers Power stated at the time, “It is strange how some people will not use a little forethought, but insist on experiencing everything themselves and, how familiarity with danger breeds contempt, more especially in cases where serious consequences have not been experienced by the individual.”

It is unfortunate that Powers’ words were not properly heeded by the mining industry as they certainly should have been, for just over fifteen years later, there would be another mine disaster in the Illawarra. One that would eclipse the events at Bulli in terms of lost life, and would, to this day, remain the greatest loss of life in an industrial accident in Australia’s history.

This accident claimed the lives of 81 people.

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