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Discussion Topic 1: Rank top ten severe accidents in energy sector (Aberfan Disaster)

Mark Nicol's picture

(1)    What were the
physical/technical circumstances that led to the accident?

The spoil tips produced by the mining process were placed on top
of a layer of porous sandstone that housed a number of underground springs. On
the lead up to the disaster it had been raining heavily for days which caused approximately
3-6 meters of the spoil tip to subside.


(2)    What were the main
underlying causes?

The root cause of the disaster was that the spoil
tip became saturated with the heavy rain fall which caused the spoil tip to
subside at the top which resulted in 150,000 cubic meters of mining waste to
flow down the hill. Secondly there was the lack of procedures that were in
place for the tipping of the spoil tips. The NCB (national coal board) had
tipping policy and also did not follow any regulatory body i.e. Her Majesties
Inspectorate of Mines and Quarries.   


(3)    Why did the accident result
in: (i) So many fatalities; (ii) So much harm to the environment etc.?

The village had no defence systems in place for
such an occurrence. As such, the spoil tip mass aided by gravity, destroyed the
houses and parts of the school with relative ease. As the disaster happened in
the morning when the children had just arrived for class the fatality rate was
greatly increased.


(4)    What factors contributed to
the escalation of the accident?

The lack of procedures in place for dumping the
spoil contributed to the escalation of the accident.  If procedures had been in place for the likes
of safety, risk analysis and geotechnical surveys to determine the condition of
the spoil tip, this would have significantly reduced the accident happening.   


(5)    What were the legal
consequences of the accident?

As a result of the accident the Mines and
Quarries (Tip) Act 1969 was introduced to address the spoil tips produced by
mining. This Act was an addition to the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 which had
no reference to spoil tips

 

References:

1.     
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

2.     
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HM_Inspectorate_of_Mines_and_Quarries#Structure_and_responsibilities

3.     
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1969/10/contents

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