The Blaenhirwaun Colliery was situated near the village of Cross Hands about 16 miles north west of Swansea and was near the extremity of the coalfield. It had been working since 193 producing high grade anthracite with an output of about 350 tons per day. 360 people were employed below ground and 80 on the surface. It was served by two vertical shafts sunk to the Green Vein. The No.1 shaft was 10 feet in diameter and 155 yards deep and as the upcast. It was equipped with a Walker Paddle fan which produced about 55,000 cubic feet of air per minute at a water gauge of 3.125 inches. The No. 2 shaft was 13 feet in diameter and 212 yards deep and was the downcast and winding shaft for men and materials.

The seams that were worked at the colliery in descending order were the Big Vein, the Stanllyd and the Lower Pumpquart. Safety lamps had always been required throughout the mine and automatic firedamp detectors were required by the Coal Mines (Ventilation) General Regulations, 1947 had to be provided on the longwall faces where electric power was used. The lamps throughout the mine were Nife N.C. 113C electric cap lamps with E. Thomas and Williams Cambriam No.1 flame safety lamps and Naylor Spiralarms Type M, for the use of workmen as firedamp detectors. Prestwick Patent Protector Type 6 flame safety lamps were used by the officials for their official inspections.

Despite all these precautions, a serious explosion occurred in 1955 which claimed the lives of 6 men and injured 11 others. The cause was traced to a compressed air driven fan, the blades of which were found to cause sparks when running at a reduced speed, caused by air leaks. The full report into the disaster can be found here.

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