MANY miners can tell stories of encountering animals underground – particularly in slope operations – but it wasn’t very long ago that the sight of an enormous horse, like the one in this undated photo taken in the US, was common beneath the surface.
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Donna Schmidt

Animals played a big role in everyday work, such the back-breaking haulage tasks that are now handled by rail and tire, and powered by electric and diesel.

It is hard to believe that one US state, Pennsylvania, up until July still had laws allowing the use of animals in coal operations.

Under the new regulations of Senate Bill 949, which also calls for a state mine safety board, the horses and mules of yesteryear’s mining are officially relegated back to their natural settings.

While the business of mining coal is still laborious and seemingly never-ending, this image stands as a true exemplification of just how far industry technology, especially with regards to haulage and safety, has brought us.

Photo courtesy United States Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) National Mine Health and Safety Academy Technical Information Center & Library, Bureau of Mines Collection.

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