Mine 21 is a 25-minute documentary film that will debut in Spring of 2020. A fifteen minute version of the film was screened in the communities affected by the Mine 21 disaster in 2018. In 2019, this fifteen minute version was awarded the prestigious Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media by the Austen Riggs Center due to its sensitive depiction of trauma.
This website is under construction but will be regularly updated with news about the film. Check back soon for updates!
What is the Mine 21 disaster?
On December 8, 1981, Mine 21, one of several underground coal-mines operated by Grundy Mining Company in the unincorporated area between Palmer and Whitwell, Tennessee, exploded and killed thirteen miners. While not on the same scale as the disasters in Fraterville (May 19, 1902, in which 216 miners were killed) or Cross Mountain (December 9, 1911, in which 84 died), Mine 21 was the worst mining disaster in Tennessee since the introduction of modern safety precautions. The Department of Labor would eventually rule that “a cigarette lighter taken into a coal mine in violation of Federal regulations touched off a methane explosion,” but “accused the Grundy County Mining Company, the mine’s operator, of failure to evacuate workers from a methane-laden shaft, to adequately ventilate the shaft and to enforce a Federal regulation prohibiting smoking materials in a mine” (New York Times, May 5, 1982). The matter went all the way to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).