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17 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

WORKMEN'S NOTES.r .

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WORKMEN'S NOTES. r THE USE OF COAL-CUTTING MACHINES. Bv WILLIAM BRACE. [Parliamentary Labour Candidate for South Glamorgan J I learn that Messrs. Partridge, Jones, and Co. have re-commenced working their Llanhilleth house coal colliery, which has been on stop for several years, and are doing most of their coal-getting by the use of coal-cutting machines instead of ¡ hand labour. Whether the motive power is compressed air or electricity I am not informed; but as this is a seam entirely- free from gas electricity can be used as freely as any other agent. There can be no doubt that with the ordinary motor for coal-cutting an amount of sparking takes place when the machine meets with a par- ticularly hard substance, and the sparks given off are an element of danger, for were gas about in any quantity the pro- bability is that it would cause an explo- sion. Experimenting goes on regularly to endeavour to find a check to this danger, but up to now, so far as I am aware, no satisfactory solution of the problem has been found, and until that is done no company would be warranted, in my judgment, in using electricity as a motive power for coal-cutting machines in. any fiery seam. It has been demonstrated time and again that explosions can be caused by coal dust alone, and as dust must of necessity be flying about in largo quantities at the iOpot where the machine is at work too much attention cannot be given to .the use of electricity as the power for such machines. The loss of life by fire-damp explosions, happily, was lower last year than in any previous year, although South Wales was the scene of a higher death-rate from this cause than any other coalfield. Prevention of Expiosions. Some explanation for this may be found in the fact that the majority of our seams are highly dangerous. Still, as the danger has been reduced considerably by the introduction of more scientific mining, there is no reason why it should not be obliterated altogether. Most up-to-date collieries water their roadways regularly, and by so doing remove entirely a destruc- tive agent that a few years ago caused a number of explosions, but which, until Professor Galloway took the matter in hand, was not considered by the best mining engineers to be among the dangers of mining. Even now the experts diifer as to the best mode of watering the mines. Speaking for myself, I favour the system of pipes to which a hand hose can be attached. I carefully examined this system at work at the Powell's Tillery Collieries, the general manager of which is Mr. W. Stewart, Abertillery, and it appeared to me to be a complete success. Not a particle of the floor, sides, or roof escaped being thoroughly damped. That watering the mines is an additional item, and at some collieries a substantial one, to the cost of production must be admitted, but when it is a question of safety to life and limb increased cost must give way to increased safety. Workmen and Ccal-cuiting- Machinery. Reverting to the question of coal- cutting machines, may I point out that it is a mistake to suppose that the reason why more coal is not cut by machinery is that the workmen object to machines P The fact is that in the majority of the Beams, especially in South Wales, it is much cneaper to cut coal by hand labour, and, therefore, the employers have no desire to go to the heavy cost of buying machines. There may have been a time when workmen thought machinery was their enemy, but that, surely, is gone by. Machinery does the donkey-work of the industry and lightens labour's burden. It may disarrange matters for a time, but that rights itself, leaving the workmen with an equally good wage, perhaps a trifle better, for less laborious work. At j any race, this was the information given to me in Scotland a few weeks ago by men who were formerly employed getting coal by hand labour, but who now do the work with machines, and prefer the latter. Machinery Not Always Profitable. That coal-cutting machines mark an advance in scientific mining there is no room to doubt. But they have their limitations. They cannot be us-ed where there is a brittle, treacherous roof, for not only would it be dangerous for the men in charge of them, but the machines are likely to be buried, never to be recovered, which would mean a dead loss of anything up to £1,000 or more. In thin seams of about 2ft. thick where the roof is good I conceive them to bo of enormous value, and they may enable such seams to be worked at a profit, which with hand labour would not be done. The saving of coal in the working is an important matter, and when the thickness is 2ft. or under the machine would undercut a yard with less waste than would be possible with hand labour, for the mouth of the holing would have to bo sufficiently wide to allow the workman room to swing his mandril, whereas the machine would do the cutting with the same width of cut from beginning to end, the distance which it would have to hole under to free the coal making no difference. Summing up the question of coal-cutting machines in a sentence, I would say that, while they may be of immense value in thin Reams with a fairly good roof, hand labour would be as cheap or cheaper in thick seams or where there was'a bad, brittle roof to contend with. Northern Miners and the Federation. The Nor thurn her land Miners' Associa- tion have appointed a deputation to meet the executive council of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain at Bristol next week to confer as to conditions upon which they could become affiliated with the latter body. This move is. the result of an agitation that has been going on in the Northern counties for months. As "Western Mail" readers are aware, this county was a branch of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, but Left- because of a difference of opinion over the Eight Hours Bill (from bank to bank) within a short time of its affiliation. What the outcome of this conference may be it would be imprudent for me to I speculate upon. Should Northumberland decide to join, Durham would be the only county left in isolation. That it will be some time before Durham will affiliate is certain if the local executive council's advice to the conference held on Saturday is to prevail. Why the Durham leaders should oppose joining the Miners' Federation of Great Britain I have not been able to determine. True, the Eight Hours Bill stands in the way' but there is no reason why an effort should not be made to overcome that obstacle if that is the only hindrance to a national amalgamation. This ideal is worth sacrificing something for, and I trust the value such an organisation would be to the toilers will outweigh in the minds of all parties those considera- tions that up to now have given check to the establishment of one great national Federation. Colliery Ambulances. Mr. Seaborne, the Great Western Railway inspector at Cardiff Station, has been good enough to offer a suggestion which, if accepted by the officials at the collieries, would enable patients sent to the hospitals by train to be taken with "greater despatch and much less suffer- ing." All that is required is that the legs of the colliery ambulance, instead of being fixtures, should be arranged so that they may, when necessary, be bent under or to the side, and thus enable the colliery ambulance to be placed upon the station ambulance carriage without dis- turbing the patient until the hospital is reached. This is impossible with an ambulance that has immovable legs; therefore, the patient has either to be moved from the ambulance he is lying on to the station ambulance, which may mean not only additional suffering, but danger to life, or he has to be carried to the hospital. I thank Mr. Seaborne for his kind suggestion and for the ready assistance he has given to numbers of our poor men who have been mangled while following their dangerous occupa- tion and who have had to be sent to the hospitals for treatment, and I am sure that I only need mention the matter in this column to ensure the whole of the colliery ambulances being altered in thq direction recommended.

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