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M. A. Hanna Company
Silver Open Pit Mine Explosives Detonation

Virginia, Saint Louis County, Minnesota
June 27, 1918
No. Killed - 18

In the News
News icon Arkansas City Daily Traveler, June 27, 1918
News icon The Journal and Tribune, June 28, 1918
Official List of Fatalities
Thirty-four charges of mixed 40-percent dynamite and black blasting powder had been placed in underground workings to break about 100,000 tons of iron ore from an ore bank in the open pit.

The charges, averaging 425 pounds of 40-percent dynamite and 1,102 pounds of black blasting powder, were wired in series and connected to a point of the surface 1,000 feet from the ore bank where it was planned to explode them from a 110-volt circuit the following day.

Adequate protection was provided to prevent premature detonation from all sources other than lightning.

Forty-six men were in the underground workings, 41 were tamping the charges and generally cleaning up the workings, and 5 were seeking shelter from a storm when lightning struck the face of the ore bank and caused the premature detonation of an estimated 20 out of the 34 charges.

Twenty-eight men escaped from the upper levels without assistance, but the remaining 18 were killed.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States, Volume III

Twenty Men Buried When Flash Sets Off Charges
Eau Claire Leader, Wisconsin
June 28, 1918

Virginia, Minn., June 27. -- Lightning striking wires connecting dynamite blasts all ready to be set off in the Elivier open pit mine of the M. A. Hanna Company, two miles west of Virginia today, caused the worst mine accident in the history of the Mesaba range.  At least twenty men were buried alive.  There were 40 men working and some were badly injured.  The men are foreigners.

Only one body, that of Andrew Bronieu, has been recovered.  Steam shovel and rescue crews are at work and it is expected bodies will be rapidly uncovered.

It is said at least nine tons of dynamite went off, some in holes and some in boxes.  Several tons of powder nearby was not set off. The lightning struck the connecting wires running into the different drifts, where shots were ready to be set off when the blast came.  The whole rim of the pit seemed to lift up and settle down in a great mass of rocks and earth, burying the men who were yet tinkering with the dynamite.

At 8 o'clock tonight only one body had been removed from the wreck and it is still impossible to determine how great the loss of life has been.  Three men have been removed alive, but unconscious, while communications have been made with three men buried in the cave.  It is believed others will be found alive far back under the side of the mine where their exit has been cut off -- the shelving -- edge saving their lives.

Three levels of the property were caved by the explosion, the many tons of powder wrecking the timbers, and shaking out supports, allowing the thousands of tons to cave to the bottom of the open pit mine.  Among the men caught were outside workers who had entered the third level to escape a hard rain storm.

Official List of Fatalities
  1. Mike Allar
  2. Andrew Baroonack
  3. Lazo Beslack
  4. Tony Divizio
  5. Tony Doto
  6. Frank Fuller
  7. Eli Karakas
  8. Pete Knasovich
  9. Lazo Kolangya
  10. John Muhar
  11. John Paradis
  12. Tony Paulette
  13. John Pelpedio
  14. Joe Petranovich
  15. Mike Sipka
  16. Joseph Spolar
  17. Mike Vaihovich
  18. Mike Zetz
Source: Minnesota Mine Accident Index  PDF Format

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