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Community and Culture in the New River Gorge
Item 6 of 13
On Saturday, July 23, 1966, disaster rocked the sleepy village of Mount Hope when an explosion occurred in Siltex Mine. Siltex (sometimes spelled Siltix) was operated on the edge of town by the New River Company, which was based in Mount Hope. A number of factors led to the explosion. Poor ventilation led to the accumulation of methane and other gases and standard space segmenting practices had not been followed. The foreman was the only person in the mine equipped with a flame safety lamp that should have been issued to every miner. Finally, all electric equipment in the area of the explosion was improperly contained and maintained. An errant spark from one of these electronics is what ultimately catalyzed the explosion. Seven miners in the immediate vicinity of the explosion were killed and two were severely injured. Thirty-nine other miners escaped relatively unharmed, though many of them were forced to barricade themselves in the mine until ventilation could be reestablished. According to state and federal reports, the accident was unequivocally the result of extreme negligence on the part of the New River Company, though the company refused to accept responsibility for the tragedy. The Siltex mine continued to operate until 1984, when the entrance was sealed. The memories of miners who lost their lives in the 1966 disasters still live on as surviving relatives and community members honor their lives at a yearly memorial service.

  • Plant, Slope, Road surface, Grey
  • Font, Parallel, Cross, Symbol
  • A large crowd gathers after the news of the disaster from an underground explosion at New River Company’s Siltex Mine on July 23, 1966. The photo was taken at a point near the mine’s entry, which is just a few feet from U.S. 21 and within Mount Hope.
  • Image of families awaiting the news of survivors from the day of the explosion.
  • Order from Federal Mining inspectors allowing the resumption of coal production.
  • John D. Rockefeller, IV campaigning for governor at Siltex Mine, Mt. Hope, WV 1972. Left to right: Rev. Gene Hall, Adrian Keeney, Jay Rockefeller.
  • Left to right Adrian Keeney, "Buster" Vandall, Governor Jay Rockefeller.
  • Those in the photo are Adrian Keeney, Governor Jay Rockefeller (left) and Junior Coleman, far right.

Kilsyth, WV, Coal Camp USA. Accessed May 18th 2021.

Neuman, Taylor. Remembrance service for mine explosion in Mount Hope, WVNSTV. July 18th 2018. Accessed May 18th 2021.

Richmond, J. K. et al. Historical Summary of Coal Mine Explosion in the United States 1959-81. Bureau of Mines Information Circular. Published January 1st 1983.

"Siltix Mine Disaster." Beckley Post Herald (Beckley) July 24th 1966.

“Sparks from Shuttle Car Caused Disaster at Mine.”Vol. 87 No.32, The Raleigh Register, 29 July 1966.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Coal Camp USA. Accessed May 18th 2021.

Bureau of Mines Information. Accessed May 18th 2021.

Love, Shirley.

Love, Shirley.