Mt Kembla Mine Disaster: Royal Commission Report
At 2pm on July 31, 1902, Mt Kembla Colliery exploded, killing 96 men and boys. The blast, which was heard in nearby Wollongong, created 33 widows and took the fathers of 120 children. The disaster had an enormous impact on the Illawarra, and more specifically on the village of Mt Kembla, where the shattering effect of lives lost and families torn apart resonates to this day.
No one knew exactly what caused the explosion. However, a number of theories were raised, with some seemingly aimed at protecting the mine's reputation as a "safe, non-gassy" pit.
The Royal Commission
The Royal Commission into the 1902 Mt Kembla mine disaster was held between March and May of 1903 in Wollongong and Sydney. The Commission determined that gas and coal-dust were responsible for the explosion, and concluded that only the substitution of naked lights with safety lamps could have prevented the disaster.
Access to the Report
The University of Wollongong Library possess two original copies of the Royal Commission Report in its Archives. Access is available in the Archives Reading Room by appointment.
Digitised Copy - pdf format
A digital copy of the Report is also available for download. Digitisation of the Report of the Royal Commission - which enables community access to this significant local history document - was assisted by a generous grant from the Dendrobium Community Enhancement Program, one of the aims of which is to promote the historical significance of mining in Mt Kembla.
More resources relating to the Mt Kembla mining disaster are available on the Illawarra History Library Guide.