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19 Mitsui Co. Officials Charged in 1984 Coal Mine Disaster

May 15, 1985 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ Police today brought charges against 19 officials of Mitsui Coal Mining Co. on suspicion of ″professional negligence″ in a 1984 mine fire that killed 83 workers.

The Fukuoka state police charged that Tetsuyo Hiraga, former director of the company’s Miike Mine in southwestern Japan, and 18 other officials were responsible for the accident because they failed to take measures necessary to ensure the miners’ safety.

The Mitsui Mine officials now face possible indictment from the public prosecutor’s office.

The fire broke out Jan. 18, 1984, in the Ariake mine operated by the Miike mine on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu. The fire trapped and killed 83 and injured 16 workers, making it one of the worst mine disasters of post-war Japan.

The worst mine disaster occurred at Miike’s Mikawa mine in 1963 when a gas explosion killed 458 miners.

Police said the fire started when the eroded prop of a conveyer belt carrying coal, broke and fell onto a high-speed roller, igniting coal powder.

Police said company officials had used old materials for props and failed to discover the accumulations of coal powder in the shaft because they neglected to make an official checkup.

The Miike mine complex, the largest in Japan, produces about 5 million tons of high-quality coal a year, or more than one-fourth of Japan’s total production.