A massive explosion tragically killed at least 25 miners in West Virginia in 2010, making it at that time the worst coal mine accident in over 20 years. Officials believe that methane gas may have caused the mine to explode. Coal mine explosions are generally caused by either methane or coal dust. Methane gas is a byproduct of coal. It can build up over time in coal mines when there are not enough other types of gases to dilute it to prevent an explosion.
Air can explode when it contains 5 to 15 percent methane. Explosions happen when the methane comes in contact with a heat source. The combustion process causes air inside the mine to expand which can create a shock wave. The most common method to control methane levels in coal mines is ventilation. Methane levels in coal mines are supposed to be kept below 1 percent. Unfortunately, there are areas that are difficult to reach.
Coal dust explosions in coal mines are usually caused by methane gas explosions. Dust must be very concentrated to explode. When methane combustion leads to a coal dust explosion, the results can be devastating. Workers sprinkle lime dust over coal dust because lime dust absorbs heat and keeps the coal dust from becoming concentrated in the air.
Coal miners who have been injured in an explosion might want to meet with an attorney to see what the best way might be to seek compensation for the losses that they have incurred. In some cases where the accident was due to a reckless disregard of federal safety regulations on the part of the employer, a lawsuit could be brought directly against the company in lieu of filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits.