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Mining disasters

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To respond to the recent Turkish mining disaster and consider how to learn from such situations.

Preparation and materials

  • This rapid response assembly has been prompted by the mining disaster in Turkey. For the latest news visit
  • Note that this assembly contains a number of elements, so it can easily be adapted to suit the age of your students. Sensitivity will be required towards any students with relatives in Turkey or with family working as miners.
  • You will also find three short audio dramas about the life of a child miner at
    Extracts from these could be played during the assembly or used in the classroom to extend the learning.


  1. Recap the events of the past few days and, if appropriate, update with the latest details.

  2. Ask the students to consider what our response should be to this kind of disaster. Draw out the following:

    Our first reaction is often to be shocked and to feel sympathy and concern for the people involved. This is a universal human trait or response. Even though we probably don’t know anyone involved, we are still part of the same human family and we can sympathize (or empathize) with people caught up in terrible situations.

    What else can we do? We can use our human capacity for intelligence to think about why this happened and learn from the situation. At the time of writing, the causes of the Turkish disaster are not known, but we do know that over the centuries people have learned from mining catastrophes and found ways to improve safety.

  3. If appropriate, mention the Davy Lamp. Devised by Humphry Davy in 1815, it enclosed the flame in a metal gauze to prevent explosions. See

    You could also mention the use of canaries in mines. They were susceptible to a build-up of poisonous gas before it affected humans, and so were used for many years until they were superseded by electronic detectors in the 1980s. See

  4. Point out that mining of all types remains a dangerous occupation around the world and that many of the things we take for granted contain mined materials, including metals and substances used in electrical components. Gem stones and gold are often mined in difficult circumstances. 

Time for reflection

Human ingenuity has enabled us to find and use many substances from deep in the Earth. We need to ensure that this same capacity for smart thinking is also applied to the safety of those who work underground on our behalf.

If appropriate, include a time of silence to think about those caught up in mining disasters and be thankful for the work of miners around the world.

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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