by Peter Bell
The Mount Mulligan Coal Mine Disaster of 1921
Mount Mulligan is 100 km west of Cairns, an impressive natural landmark whose sandstone cliffs look as though a part of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales has somehow been transported 2000 km north. Underlying the mountain are coal deposits that supported a small mining town from 1914 until 1958. There is not much left of the township now. The best place to learn about Mount Mulligan’s history is the cemetery, where nearly a quarter of the little town’s population was buried in less than one week. On 19 September 1921 a massive coal dust explosion in the Mount Mulligan mine killed all 75, or perhaps 76, men and boys who were working underground.
This is the story of a horrible event in a remote and beautiful location 90 years ago. Of all peacetime jobs, underground mining is one of the most destructive of human life.